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Clergy Providing Counseling First Responders in Bridgeport Fire

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Critical Incident Stress Management Coordinator Kurt Turner Critical Incident Stress Management Coordinator Kurt Turner

In Bridgeport where three small children died this week, clergy rushed to the scene and performed a difficult and meaningful job.

"One of our chaplains did perform last rites," said Critical Incident Stress Management Coordinator Kurt Turner. "And of course, there was no family there other than I think one of them, was able to deal with the grandparents for a short time."

But there was another need at that scene, to help first responders process the horrific things they experienced.

"The death of a child is the very worst and I have never ever seen anything like this since the Shadyside flood," Turner said.

He said the long faces of the first responders told the story. So the Critical Incident Stress Management team held debriefings. First responders were warned to expect signs of trauma like flashbacks, nightmares and night sweats, not necessarily immediately but as time goes on.

"It doesn't end when you take your fire suit off or you park the squad car and actually most of the time," he said. "That's the real beginning."

Turner said one common thing is recurring thoughts of the event.

"And I call it the old VCR syndrome where you can't shut it off, it just keeps coming back, over and over. And we try to give them some coping mechanisms," he said.

Coping is the operative word. Easing, dealing with it, but not eradicating. Turner said that can't happen.

"It's something they'll carry with them the rest of their lives," he said. "There's nobody from CISM, there's no counselor, and there is nobody out there who can wipe this from their memory."

According to Turner,  they not only warn the first responders what to expect, they like to warn their spouses as well.