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First Responder: Under The Badge, We're All Human

11:49 PM, Dec 15, 2012   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- Many of us have been watching intently as each new detail emerges in Newtown, Connecticut. We're thinking about the innocent children, their brave teachers and their parents, but how are the first responders dealing with this?

"There have been times in my career where I've, for reasons I don't appreciate, go in the locker room and sit down and cry. But, and I think if you don't have to do that you shouldn't be in this business. But, for this one, not yet. Notice I said 'yet'," said H. Wayne Carver II, Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner.

The paramedics, police officers, firefighters and other investigators have seen everything the rest of us didn't -- things we don't even want to think about.

So how do the first responders cope?

News 2 spoke with some first responders in the Triad, who shared their thoughts and emotions.

"The reason we all get into this line of work is because we want to help people. And when you get there, and there's nobody to help, it's sad. But there's really, sometimes, there's just nothing that you can do," said Brent Hill, EMT/Paramedic with Guilford County EMS.

"I don't think that we ever get immune to the emotion that you experience when you see that. You think about what their parents are going through, what the guys that are on that scene are going through," said Hill.

Deputy Chief Wayne Scott, with Greensboro Police Department said when you're a parent, it's especially difficult.

"You try to prepare yourself for what you're going to see, knowing that, regardless of what you see, you got to do your job," said Scott.

"Whenever you see a horrific thing like that happen that involves kids, it's going to pull on everybody's heart strings," said Hill.

The first responders not only have to preserve the crime scene and evidence, but also have to positively identify each of the bodies and follow other procedures.

"Mission now, emotion later. That's kind of the way you have to do it. You go in, you do your job because these people depend on you being able to do your job under stress," said Hill.

Hill said after a traumatic incident, he tries to separate himself from his job and focus on everything else in his life.  But he said it's also unhealthy to ignore your emotions. 

"Don't be afraid to admit that it bothers you.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Don't try to be tough.  You went in, you did your job well.  Now, take the time away that you need to, to be healthy for you and your family," said Hill.

Scott said withholding information is one of the hardest things he's ever had to do, especially when it comes to parents. He said part of his job is to follow the investigative process, but he knows that while he does, sometimes he's just delaying the inevitable.

"You have to remember, underneath the badge, we're all human as well," said Scott.

EMT's and paramedics in Guilford County can receive counseling or take a leave of absence after a traumatic event to help them heal.

The Greensboro Police Department offers peer support and help from clinical psychologists when officers need it.

WFMY News 2

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