In Response to the Orlando Shooting


My Dear First Responders,


If there’s ever any doubt that what we does matters, if you ever wonder if we really have an impact on our society and world, this morning answers that question loud and clear.


Yes. We Matter. The world needs us.


When I heard the news about the Orlando shooting, my heart went out not only to the victims and those who love them, but also to the first responders. To wade through all those bodies, searching for the living amongst the dead. Triage. The MCI none of us are ever completely ready for. It must have felt like hell.


I’ve been taking a writers workshop at Yale University for the last ten days. Beautiful, peaceful, intellectual Yale. I have learned so much here. One of the things I’ve learned is this: Firefighters are incredibly strong. Emotionally. We are intensely resilient. We see more trauma in a single shift than many Americans see in their entire lives. We operate at higher levels of resiliency on a daily basis than the general public may be called upon to access in years or decades.


I have no doubt that the firefighters, EMS, and police that worked the Orlando shooting feel exhausted and spiritually shattered. To those who were there: Sleep for days. Have that drink or three. Cry or howl. But know this:  You ARE the strong ones. We are wired differently. We all get beat down, then we get up and step back into the fire, the station, the scene again, because we have a high tolerance for pain.


All first responders will be traumatized and wounded over and over in our careers, year after year, shooting after hanging after dead baby and on and on. But we will continue and recover. It’s how we’re made. It’s why we’re here. It’s necessary.


Many have forgotten that Homo Sapiens are wired for trauma. From the days of cavemen being eaten alive by tigers, to tribal eons when entire communities experienced slaughter after slaughter, to the twentieth century with its continual waves of war. Humans are wired to psychologically survive.


So for the first responders of the Orlando massacre or any horrible scene–grieve and cry and howl and scream. But let me remind you in case you may have momentarily forgotten. We need you. You are necessary and you are strong and our country is safer because you do this job.


It’s okay to be traumatized. There’s no shame in that. Thank the gods that we have hearts. Take all the time you need to recover and then it’s time to grow.


Post traumatic growth is real. We are made for it.


God bless everyone who has been wounded by this hateful event. May we all be kind. May we know that the quality of our words and hearts matter. May we all take care of each other. Because Together We Are Stronger.



  • Bill Zipfel says:

    A wonderful and heartfelt commentary. You obviously know your subject. As a member of law enforcement for 34 years, a trainer and past volunteer fire chief and skydiver I too have seen a bit of trauma. Nothing like what was experienced in Orlando but all handle it differently. You are right, cry, scream, do what is needed and get back in the game. Thank you and God Bless all who responded and may you heal well and rapidly.

  • Jey says:

    Orlando has been on my bucket list for places to visit. I won’t let this deter me from spending my holiday there. Hugs and prayers for everybody from Canada.

  • michael says:

    Well done, thanks for sharing, I especially liked “post traumatic growth,” been trying to figure out how to express that for years.

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