Have you ever dealt with it? Some of you may be reading this and may be asking yourself, “What the heck is he talking about?” Well, I am talking about severe traumatic incidents.
As a Law Enforcement Officer, we deal with sever traumatic incidents routinely and I hate using that word, but it is unfortunately on a routine basis that we have to deal with this stuff. Now I am not trying to say Law Enforcement is the only one dealing with stuff, but, I would like to share to some of you incidents that have occurred to me throughout my time in Law Enforcement and how it still effects me to this day.
To set this one up I am going to have to travel back a generation. Unfortunately for me, I am one of those Officers that had several generations worth of Law Enforcement in the family tree. However, I will only have to go back one to set this up.
My father was an Officer of 30+ years of service. Well one day back in his patrol days, a mid air collision occurred between two passenger airplanes. No we are not talking about just a small aircraft, but a small aircraft and a large jetliner. To make things worse, both of these aircraft fell out of the sky into a housing track near his reporting district (area he worked). He was one of many first responders that drove into that horrific traumatic incident. I will contest anyone who would say they did not earn their full yearly paycheck on that day alone. I won’t go into a lot of the gory details described to me years later after going to him to confide in him for my own traumatic incident, but instead I will tell you my memories of it as a child.
I can remember my mom picking me up from Elementary school and driving us home to have my mother tell me, “Shh.. Your father is sleeping”, as I entered the house. I used to get so excited coming home from school because I had a really awesome “He-man” play set and it was always the first thing I ran to when going in the house. My bedroom was adjacent to my parents so I knew I had to be extra quiet if I where going to play in my room. One of those days I can remember walking into my bedroom and hearing my father screaming next door. Well it didn’t even sound like screaming now that I think of it but more of ugly growls and snorts while tossing and turning in his bed which lead up to a loud yell. I heard my mother enter their bedroom and ask my father, “Was it the plane crash again?” In which my father, who sounded like he just ran a marathon would answer her, “Yes.” While this didn’t happen daily, I will say it was quite the common event in my childhood and outlasted “He-man”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Saved by the Bell” and ran all the way up until I left the house.
So, now, fast forward many years until later when I became an Officer doing the same job as my father before me. I was a cocky, arrogant, little cuss. Not in a real obvious way, but in the way where I thought I could handle anything. I had a heart of ice and was able to deal with anything. Gunshot victim with half their arm blown off and all the gruesome little parts barely hanging onto the skin. Traffic accident victims with brain matter scattered all over the floor while eating an egg breakfast burrito. I was ok with all of it. Nothing seemed to bother me, or so I thought..
One event filled day brought me to my knees. I got a call of a five year old boy who had drowned. While at that call the young helpless victim was lying there lifeless wearing the same “Sponge Bob Square Pants” t-shirt my five year old was wearing that night I left him to go to work. It immediately hit me and when I say “it”, I mean that feeling of grief and sorrow that you just cannot hide. I kicked the door closed behind me where I was at because I didn’t want anyone to see that I had completely lost it. I kept telling myself, “Get a hold of yourself. There is time for this **** later.” After about a minute or two of gathering myself I was able to pull myself together long enough to finish up my day. The ride home was a completely different story. I cried the entire way home. All the calls I had been to. Everything I have seen. All flashing up now and just as vivid as the day they occurred. A gate had been opened and there was no stopping it. All of those suppressed emotions just bubbled up and bubbled over onto the floor.
There was only two people that came to mind when wondering how to cope with this. So I went to my father and asked him, “How do you deal with this?” That was the first time I had ever seen my father’s eyes turn glossy and said, “..because people need you to. Well I wish I could sit here and write you all of you and say that my father’s advice helped, but it did not. I understood it, but it did not make it all go away. Instead I went on in my career “Dealing with it” on the calls, and getting hit by it emotionally after I punched off the clock.
I will say a few years later I did turn to the second person I knew to help me through these times and that has helped tremendously, but perhaps I will save that for another time..
God bless all of you.. Hug your loved ones tight.. To all of our military and first responders out there, stay safe.
– Frank Three