A Blog By PJ Kellam – Firefighter/Photographer

Deeply Saddened

“We as firefighters have been described many ways…rough, tough, heroes, and even saints to many…yesterday, we were just fathers and mothers.”
-Assistant Chief Gary McGhee – Fort Oglethorpe, GA Fire & Rescue

December 14, 2012

11 Days before Christmas

I was at work on Engine Company 54 as the Firefighter in a crew of three. I had just finished mopping the floor, the last of the house duties for the day. My phone buzzed in my pocket: one of the firefighters I network with was wishing me a safe shift. After replying back with similar words (we work the same schedule), a post on my twitter feed titled BREAKING NEWS caught my eye. After reading the short post, I turned on the TV in the firehouse and myself and my crew watched in disbelief as the death toll in a Connecticut school shooting climbed. The first reports were saying two or three dead, several injured. By the end of the day, the Connecticut State Police would announce that almost 30 had died, many of them elementary school children.

I received a message from my father shortly after I read the news and began to watch the coverage. The message was to inform me of the situation, to tell me to be safe, and to tell me he loved me… something many parents that day could not ever tell their children again.

I continued to watch the coverage throughout the day. We had 4 calls, we cleaned the engine (it was engine day), we cleaned and serviced the ladders, and we discussed many things, as a normal fire crew does. At shift change, the mood in the firehouse was one of sadness, disbelief, and amazement. Quiet conversations and hot coffee filled the gaps created by television commercials. At the end of the 24 hour shift, I went home. My crew went home. Safe and sound.

Firefighters, Police Officers, Emergency Medical Workers, and all other public safety personnel go through rigorous training, sometimes for months on end before they’re allowed to respond to assist the citizens of their communities. The training involves classroom style learning, testing, physical training, simulated situations, decision making, and many other skills. While on the job, training continues and experience is gained from the situations that are presented. There are many tough challenges that are faced by emergency workers on a daily basis. They see the worst days of peoples lives. They see the worst conditions people have ever been in and the worst mental states they have ever experienced, and are tasked with making some good come of any situation they are exposed to. It is not an easy task and they are not always successful.

Nothing can prepare anyone to respond to, mitigate, or deal with tragedy. In the wake of the second worst school shooting in United Sates history, it is the job of the emergency responders to put together the pieces of the puzzle, figure out what happened, treat the wounds that have been left behind (both physical and mental) and be ready to respond to the next one when the bell rings.

As a firefighter, I have been exposed to many though situations. Having said that I cannot even imagine what the emergency responders in Newtown, Connecticut are facing. Nothing can prepare anyone to respond to something like that. I commend each and every one of them for responding quickly and professionally and doing the best they could with the situation presented to them.

To the emergency responders reading this: I challenge each and every one of you to go out, train, and be the best that you can be so that one day, when called to duty in the face of the worst tragedies, you too are able to respond professionally, handle the situation, and provide a positive outcome. I support you, your community supports you.

Many things have been said, many opinions have been formulated and expressed, but even the President of the United States had to wipe away tears when addressing the nation. It is not the time for politics, but rather a time for mourning.

Be safe out there everyone. Hug your kids, hug your parents, and let everyone you care about know it.

If you missed the President’s speech, you can find it HERE

2 responses

  1. r

    Thank you PJ for sharing your thoughts…well said as usual….I pray for all the families that were affected by yesterday’s tragedy and for all the Emergency Personnel that responded….one of the hardest things for us is when we can do little to help….yesterday was one of those days….more recovery than rescue….that can leave some very deep scars on our hearts and psyche….there were some new heroes yesterday….the teachers who protected their children as best they could…..many children were spared due to those educators bravery and quick thinking….prayers for all involved.

    December 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm

  2. annalba

    Well said Patrick. My prayer go out to all involved it this Senseless act.
    God bless & keep you & your team members safe at all times.❤

    December 16, 2012 at 6:52 pm

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