After the recent incident at the middle school, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the situation before I posted anything about it. Two of my officers and myself responded early on during the incident. We assisted with clearing and evacuating the building. Of course I will not give out any details as the investigation is ongoing, but I do want to share some things I saw.
I saw immeasurable fear, I saw shock, and I saw traumatic injuries. But, that is not the focus of this post. I also saw resiliency and tenacity in the eyes of those who were injured. I saw compassion and technical expertise in the actions of the emergency medical services. I saw bravery and fortitude in my brother and sister law enforcement officers. I saw confidence and competency in the command staff directing the response. I saw extreme poise and accuracy with dispatch officers. I saw extraordinary organizational, logistical skills, and empathy of adjunct agencies like the CAC and Chaplains. Most of all I witnessed a community galvanize and unify in the face of terrible unknown.
After the tactical phase of the response was over and the reunification portion began, I was amazed by all of the willingness and desire to help that seemingly sprang out of nowhere from the hearts of community members. I was asked by one community member, "What do you need?" It was a hot day for early May. I responded, "Fluids, water, Gatorade." Instantly he was gone, like a man on a mission. When he returned he told me that word had already spread, and that many at the local supermarket pitched in to purchase more than he was prepared to. Another local community member brought some cases of water and asked what else was needed. I told him, "More fluids, and snacks for the kids. Granola bars, fruit snacks, whatever else." Again. Instantly gone at a running pace.
At times like these, we have a tendency to ask what the future holds. What does recovery, and healing from an incident like this look like? I can tell you that no one, not even the first responders who are trained to respond to, and deal with these types of incidents, know what the full emotional ramifications are. They have not been fully realized. That's how trauma works. It may be in a day or two. It may be in a few weeks. It may remained buried for years. But, the body keeps the tabs, and eventually pays the bill.
I say this not to scare anyone, or to to cast a pessimistic view of the future. I tell you this to prepare you. Everyone who was in that school, everyone who responded, every parent who came to pick up a child, every one of the injured, and every member of the faculty experienced some form of critical incident stress and trauma. If you think that you did not, you are in denial.
Having been a police officer for over 18 years now, I know more than a little about critical incident stress and trauma, not only from my training, but also from experiencing it. It is common in my profession hide these things. To bury them deep. To sequester them in some portion of your mind in hopes that they will go away, or at least, be dealt with another day. I will not do that, and I wont lie by saying I am fine. Trust me when I say that doesn't work.
Now I am not telling you everyone is a victim. I am not telling you that everyone needs to seek professional help. What I am telling you is that every one may experience trauma in different ways and if you do need help, GET IT.
We will be alright. As a matter of fact, Rigby will emerge from this better, stronger, and more unified than ever. That is my belief.
It is in the darkest of times that our light shines the brightest. The key is to keep shinning it, no matter what. Can you still shine your light if you feel that you just don't have anything left? You bet. Just turn it on, no matter how dim you think it is in the darkness. Others will see it and be drawn to it. They will see that they too can shine in the darkness, and together our lights will chase away all of the darkness.
There is a community meeting on Monday that is being facilitated by the Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center. At this meeting will be representatives from the Idaho State Crime Victims Compensation, and other mental health services. It will be held at Harwood Elementary at 6:00 pm. I urge any who have been involved with this incident in any way to attend. This is not a debrief or informational meeting about the incident itself. At this meeting you will learn things about what services can be provided for you and family members who have experienced trauma during this incident.
Thanks to everyone in the community who assisted in any manner during the response to this horrible incident.
Remember, we are all in this together.
Peace Through Kindness.