When I grow up

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A few weeks ago I was typing reports in Starbucks when a woman and two children walked in. I looked up and glanced over as they went up to the counter. The mother ordered and sat down on the other side of the room.

I was concentrating on my work when I noticed one of the boys, who was about 4 years old, shyly peeking around a display at me. He watched me with curiosity and wonder. He had short dark brown hair that was parted on the side and was wearing a white polo shirt with dark horizontal stripes.

I looked over at him and smiled as I waved. His body flinched and his eyebrows jumped up in the air like a shocked cartoon character. A moment later his eyes lit up like a lighthouse on a rocky coast on a dark night.

He smiled as he rocked back and forth on his heels with nervous energy and gave me a quick wave of the his hand. With no hesitation, he walked up to me and said, “When I grow up, I want to be just like you.”

I smiled as I held out my right hand and asked, “What’s your name?”

He looked at my uniform and my equipment as he took it all in. He held up his hand and shook mine as he told me his name.

“Thanks for saying hi to me,” I replied.

He smiled back and hurriedly walked back to his mom, who was watching from across the room. He leaned against her as he continued to watch me. A few minutes later she got her drink and walked toward the door with her sons following like ducklings.

Right before stepping through the door he smiled and gave me a quick wave. I waved back and then he was gone.

Thanks little guy for making my day.

The call no one wants

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The call involved a child who was run over by a car in the driveway of her house. From the information at the scene this wasn’t going to end well.

I arrived at the hospital and parked my car knowing I didn’t want to go in. With each step toward the ER, I could feel something telling me to go in the other direction.

My sergeant was standing in the ER with a solemn look on his face. The toddler was lying lifeless in the bed with hospital staff doing what they could to save her.

Her father was wearing a blood stained shirt and a look of anguish on his face. I didn’t want to watch. I didn’t want to be there.

I could feel my heart beat faster as I looked at the child lying there. She was so small that it shocked me.

That’s when the doctor called it. I knew it was over because the father yelled out, “No!!!!!” He turned toward the wall and started hitting it as he yelled out.

You could almost feel the screams go through your body and grip your heart with  pain, suffering and grief.

How had this happened?

It was my call. The type of call no one ever wants to respond to.  Unfortunately this wasn’t the first child I’d seen run over by a family member.

I had to leave. I needed to get out of there.

I told my sergeant I was going to the collision scene to speak with the driver as the father held the lifeless body. He just screamed as he rocked back and forth with the body.  It’s an image that will stay with me forever.

I walked toward the exit as his screams shook the walls like an 8.0 earthquake.

The Death of a Child

A child’s death is never easy for the first responder, who has to experience it up close and personal. A friend at work related this personal and touching story about her experience at this type of call.

When she was sixteen, her 2-year old brother suddenly passed away. About eight years ago, this officer was working patrol and in her mid-thirties when she and a sergeant were dispatched to a call involving a dead child.

When she arrived on scene, she saw the child’s body in the bedroom and was instantly filled with the painful memory of her brother’s death all those years ago. The agonizing memory was made worse by the child’s family being there, which reminded her of how her mother had felt.

In that instant, the memory flashed into her head of performing CPR on her brother’s lifeless body as she tried to breathe life back into him. The memory of him lying in his coffin also flashed into her head like a bolt of lightning striking into her heart.

The officer had to get out of the house because she needed to separate herself from the situation. Distance was her friend and the only thing that was going to help her at this moment. Distance from the death, pain and grief that this house symbolized to her. She told the sergeant about her brother’s death and that she needed to be alone for a few minutes.

She quickly got out of the house and sat alone in her patrol car as she cried. She had no one to talk to at this painful and personal moment, which had just flooded back into her mind after seeing the dead child.

After a few minutes she composed herself and was ready to go back in. I asked her, “What did you do?” She replied, “I went back in. I had to handle the call.”

She went back into that house, which had been an emotional trigger and did what we’re supposed do. That was to be strong when others needed us to be.

All first responders have gone through similar emotions at one time or another while at work. Our job is not to stand by. Ours is to be strong, despite the tragedies we have experienced at work or in our personal lives.

This is what makes the first responders special. We are still doing the job that has to be done even though our emotions might be fighting an inner battle.

Stay safe