The Effect Of Trauma On First Responders And All Of Us

Had to figure out a way to get the attn of the Fire Chiefs in Canada, so I created this slide & asked them the same question: Recognize anyone? Crickets in the room.


4 ppl, 4 diff looks/backgrounds, seem to have very little connection.


Hit the clicker & their names came up: Jeremy Richman, Calvin Desir, Sydney Aiello, Austin Eubanks. Still, no one said a word.


Hit the clicker again, & under each respective pic came up the following: Sandy Hook, Parkland, Parkland, Columbine. Eyes started to widen.


Hit the clicker one last time & again under each respective pic: Suicide 6 yrs after, Suicide 1 yr after, Suicide 1 yr after, Overdose 20 yrs after.


Each of these folks – Jeremy (a father of a child lost in Sandy Hook), Calvin & Sydney (survivors of Parkland), & Austin (survivor of Columbine) – were tragically gone from this world, w/in roughly a month from one another.


One was not in the building, one was not near the shooter, one came close to losing his life back at the time of the incident. Once again all diff backgrounds but all one thing in common – they lived thru the trauma of the loss of either neighbors/classmates/friends/family.


By all accounts they were advocates. Austin was on the road helping others. Jeremy had set up a foundation in his daughter’s name. These folks did not lack purpose.


But, the lesson is how stress & trauma BUILD in our systems, & like a game of Jenga, can take us down at any time (think of the spread of the incidents: 1 yr to 20 yrs).


It can happen to any of us who lose ppl tragically, no matter how close our connection to them. And for empathetic first responders, it can happen when hugging a mom who just lost a child, or a sibling badly injured.


As humans we take on the trauma we see, & we can’t help but FEEL the pain of others. Some call it vicarious trauma…some say it’s not vicarious – just “trauma.”


What we must accept however is – when things do happen to others, they affect US – big time. Releasing that trauma from our systems is imperative, as it’s corrosive. First responder or fam/friend – these events impact ALL of us.






















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