Editor’s Preface: Every now and then, it happens. An urgent phone call or email comes barging into my life that stops me in my tracks.
Sometimes, the interruption makes me cry or makes my heart race so hard I can feel it all over my body.
THEN IT HAPPENED – interrupting my life like a Flash-Bang at a drug house raid.
Thursday, I opened an email from a long-time Brother / pal up in Michigan. I met him many years ago on an airplane. He has been a faithful reader of my stuff and CopBlue ever since.
This is the start of a series about BREAKING COPS PHYSICALLY, SPIRITUALLY AND MENTALLY. The unanswered questions follow. How do we stop it? … How can we help them? … How do we know who they are BEFORE they explode? … So we can help them.
Maybe only God knows. But, we’re going to try. I hope you will join in as it will be a long and winding road.
We recently had a terrible call on a night-shift that involved several of our officers.
A house trailer burned during the dark of night with the mother, father, and five young children inside.
On arrival, the father was unresponsive and is still in critical condition. The mother was burned badly. Three of the children were DOS (DOA/DRT). The fourth child died in the hospital after a couple of days. The fifth/last child was burned badly but will most likely live.
When the shift sergeant called me at 0400 hrs, I could tell from his voice that he needed me there – for nothing more than the support I could offer.
The email below is from a young officer responding to a message I sent him about being a hero. The deps on that call were all superheroes! This email is clearly his way of trying to work through the pain of being unable to breathe life back into a dying child.
I am forwarding the email to you because it is quite possibly the most articulate, powerful email I’ve ever received.
Hope all is well,
Lt. Andy Engster
Lapeer County Sheriff’s Office
IT HIT ME LIKE A TON OF BRICKS
Let me begin by saying ‘thank-you’ for the compliment in the email about our stress debrief. I am writing this because I feel it is very important to attempt to articulate some of the issues that stem from these types of incidents.
Through performing this job I have learned many things, I have had the pleasure of gleaning invaluable and unique experience. I consider my background to be diverse. Because of that, I have had to experience certain things on a routine basis that many people do not.
In all of the things that have seemingly become routine, one thing in particular has always, and always will strike the hardest and remain seemingly insurmountable. To see a child injured, or killed is an indescribable horror.
I understand the psychology behind what makes an adult feel the way they do in those instances, but I cannot help but let it affect me the same way in each instance. You do not gain enough control within yourself to avoid having that pain invade your heart.
A person’s station in life does not separate them from the emotion of the aforementioned. Yesterday, I was handed two children, in both cases I felt it paramount to move as quickly as possible.
The first child was not breathing or conscious when I grabbed him, I just started running towards where I knew the nearest ambulance to be. I performed sternal rubs and small compressions and after a few attempts the child took several large breaths and opened his eyes.
After handing the child off to EMS, I went back for more, knowing full-well each passing second meant increased odds the next child placed in my arms would not survive. Fearing that I would be able to do nothing to help them draw a breath under their own power.
When I was handed the next child, I ran to a different ambulance. This time I stayed with him as I was unable to gain any sort of response from him. I just kept talking to him and telling him to hold on, to hang in there. But he was so badly burned, and completely unresponsive that I feared he would not survive.
I did not have the time nor the inclination to glove-up before starting compressions as I felt it would have diminished his chances of surviving and any sort of safety precaution which took time away in that instance was unequivocally selfish.
I laid the boy at his sister’s feet on the gurney. They were both in the exact same shape physically. I began compressions and kept them up. I just kept talking to the two babies. In my heart, I feared they had slipped away long before they were placed in my arms.
I try not let any thoughts of my loved ones creep into my mind when something like this happens. But that is almost impossible. So, I just tried to focus on the thought that I had to do exactly what I would want someone to do for my son if he were in that position.
When I laid the boy down next to his sister, he was still warm from the heat of the fire. With my limited ability, I performed CPR. My hands were stretched across the boy and his sister’s chests. All the while, we traded duties in the back of the ambulance.
Even though I could feel the cold creeping into both of those children, I just kept doing compressions. I don’t doubt my actions. I know everything that I did was to the absolute limit of my capabilities. I only wished I had a little more luck thrown my way in this instance.
It’s the innocence and helplessness that surrounds children that makes this so woeful. It is our job to protect. But, there was no way to protect these children from this event. That is simply the root of the helplessness that sinks in when something like this happens.
I have tried to be honest with myself. I know that we had nothing to do with anything that happened tonight. I just don’t want to lose in these instances and I don’t want anyone on our crew to suffer or have to feel what those involved are feeling.
I have no desire to second-guess anything that went on. But, I am not using this experience properly if I don’t take the time to pour over it and learn everything I can to improve my performance – even if only by the smallest fraction possible.
I can honestly say when you’re on scene during something like this being a cop is the furthest thing from my mind. My conscience repeatedly said “Do every fucking thing you can do. Do not stop.” Andy, I just wish I had better luck.
I know that everyone processes things in a different way. I haven’t yet seen my family since this happened. Truthfully, I am grateful for that. I do not know if I would have been able to handle work tonight if I had laid eyes on my wife and son. Shoot, the two dogs were difficult enough to sit near.
I am not an overly emotional man, and I judge I have a good grasp on the handling of stress. I wrote this to you because I feel you have an understanding of my character and how my mind works.
I want the best for everyone involved in my life, writing this helps me maintain that pursuit. Venting this tiny bit of pressure helps me move forward. I needed it.
One last thing to you, Jeremy and Scott: Please keep doing things the way you are. Knowing that you guys were coming out there to our scene provided me assurance and strength I needed to maintain our commitment and efforts.
That is not me kissing ass. We guys talk about that each and every single time you show up on scene. It’s talked about by the guys from every department, not just ours. No other command officers do that.
We didn’t even need to hear you on the radio calling “en route,” we knew what the next step was.
Deputy Joshua Bandur
Editor’s Epilogue: Reading Joshua’s memo to the LT was a gut-wrenching experience. I cried. No, said better, I sobbed. I remembered my past calls where there were children involved.
There was the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Six of us stormed into a home and arrested the husband / father while his wife and three very young children watched. We had been advised by dispatch that he might be armed. His arrest wasn’t gentle. Three little girls yelled at us (between sobbing screams) not to hurt their daddy.
I stooped down to comfort the two-year old. The look she gave me could have killed most men. It certainly put a knife through my heart.
I thought of them all as Josh tried to revive the last two kids he was given. I thought of all of them as Josh failed. I thought of all of them when Josh’s best efforts failed.
Most cops carry those memories – pent up in their heads and hearts. They are afraid to talk about them for fear of looking soft. So, they build up. One on top of another.
Until the moment comes that they explode. Explode like an overloaded, overheated pressure cooker. All at once. It’s a huge explosion. It goes … BOOM!
Another cop is broken.
By the unloaded memories they were afraid to share for fear of looking weak.
How do we help them?
How do we save them?
God help us.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
If you want to get in touch with either the LT or Deputy Bandur, email me (Jim@CopBlue.com) and I will get you right to them. They will respond directly to you. PLEASE DO IT if you need or want to talk with either one of them. God Bless you.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this message and allowing us to share this touching story with you. Our editor can be contacted via email with questions or input: Email Editor