Editorial: Don’t forget first responders

Apr. 14, 2014 @ 11:04 PM

When an adult dies in an accidental tragedy, it’s horrible for family, friends and the community where such an event happens.

When a child dies in a similar fashion, things can be even worse.

This past Saturday there were two deaths here, as a rental cabin caught fire and burned, killing a 5-year-old child and a 56-year-old family member.

The large, extended family of around two dozen people had been vacationing at the three-story cabin at Cabins at the Crossing outside Sevierville and Pigeon Forge for under a day.

“We just feel for them. They had just come in (Friday) around 4 (p.m.),” said Jenny Urse, who lives permanently with her family in the neighboring cabin. “They were so excited, taking pictures, jumping in the pool — a cute family. I feel for them ... They lost two people. They’re going to need a lot of prayer.”

Another group that often goes forgotten in these situations that may also need support is the first responders — the people who frequently witness these tragedies and their aftermath firsthand.

“The psychological stress that they frequently endure is often overlooked,” Saint Louis University Hospital warns on its website. “Sadly, if this stress isn’t properly managed, it can lead to unfortunate outcomes on a physical, emotional and mental level. It can even mean the difference between life and death.”

Psychological stress, they say, is a normal reaction to have in these challenging circumstances.

“(And) this stress produces both psychological and physical responses,” the site continued. “For example, first responders who have been exposed to certain traumatic events could develop psychological injuries, such as major depression, chronic anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as physical injuries like a heart attack or panic attack.”

First-responder careers, specifically police and firefighter jobs, typically have certain stoic expectations. Emotion is to be hidden behind a wall, making it even more difficult and unlikely for these professionals to seek help when it’s needed.

But there should be no shame in asking for help after witnessing the damage of a fatal fire, car crash or other terrible accident. It wouldn’t make you look weak — it would show you’re human.

Remember the Indiana family that lost two loved ones this week.

And also remember our local first responders. They have a tough job, they do it well, and then they have to go on to the next day and next potential disaster, all while maintaining their professional persona — which can be the biggest challenge of all.