Reposted from 9.11.13
Yesterday, September 10, State Trooper Paul Butterfield died in the line of duty. Officer Butterfield of Oceana County, MI was shot during a traffic stop. Such a tragic loss of a young man serving his community reverberates quickly and painfully throughout the nation’s emergency response community. During a quick dinner break on the road this evening, I expressed condolences about this loss to a state police trooper from Mt. Pleasant and at the name “Butterfield” I could see his countenance fall.
For those of us who didn’t know this public servant, there is still much we can do to help in his honor and the honor of his many peers who too have fallen: first we can just say how sorry we are to all who know and have worked along side Paul. 911WF begins here by acknowledging Richard Feole, the Mason-Oceana 911 Director and his entire team of telecommunicators. Among the hardest stories 911Pros live through begins with the words “Officer down”. We are SO sorry.
In the bigger picture too, we can recognize that law enforcement officers and other emergency responders beginning with the Very First (the telecommunicator) struggle deeply with how to face such tragedies that strikes their own. Torn between “sucking it up” and the enormous emotional stirring, they often find it difficult to know what to do with grief and traumatic stress.
As mentally resilient and courageous as they may be, these responders often share a paramilitary belief about emotions taught in earnest error for many generations in America: that sadness (like fear) is weakness that interferes with staying strong on the job. There is no judgment in this statement: the fact is that jobs requiring repeated exposure to traumatic life-and-death scenarios can condition responders to believe it is stupid to sit with vulnerable emotions. Why? Because these emotions if fully felt may seem to threaten our ability to “keep on keeping on” tomorrow and the day after tomorrow knowing sooner or later we will face such tragedy again. Predictably, the risk of depression and compassion fatigue increases among responders who survived the best they could living by that emotional code.
So, as we have the opportunity to encounter those emergency responders (including 911 Professionals) touched by Officer Butterfield’s death we can help simply by speaking sincere words that express our sorrow and empathy. Such open caring can encourage them to validate and feel their own pain and travel through it rather than around it. The chance to grieve with freedom and support as we were designed to do can make a lifetime of difference. And helping someone find hope among ashes is quite a gift.
If you are one of those struggling in the aftermath of such painful loss (as so many dispatchers who write to me often) please take these words to heart. And remember, 911WF is here to help you. Email us at 911Wellness@Live.com.
Peace to you.