“It is Monday afternoon and I am at work in Jerusalem. I get an alert that a motor vehicle accident has occurred at the Nayot intersection and that a Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit team is needed to treat some of the injured people as well as some of the bystanders who witnessed the accident. Apparently, the accident was fatal and one person was killed. I leave what I was doing, get into my car and drive over to the scene. At the scene, there was organized chaos and everyone was busy with the incident.
When I arrived I saw some of the EMTs packing up and getting ready to leave, having treated the injured and deceased. Their job was done, as was the job of the ambulances. My job was just beginning.
As a Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit responder, I am trained in providing emotional stabilization at the scene of a traumatic incident, and this incident certainly met the criteria. A police officer had been killed in the accident and other officers who responded, as well as emergency medical responders, were all in a state of heightened agitation and shock. Some of the officers were close friends with the officer who was killed. Naturally, they took it the hardest.
United Hatzalah has specifically trained close to 300 responders across the country to deal with providing emotional and psychological stabilization in just these instances. I was one of five Psychotrauma responders who came to the scene. Our team reached out to the deceased’s two close friends. The policewoman who seemed to be most affected was responsive to us.
I asked her name, age, relationship to the deceased, etc., and I was able to have a dialogue with her. The policeman, who was also a close friend of the deceased, was more difficult to treat. He simply wanted to be left alone. I managed to get him to respond monosyllabically. He walked around and we tried to follow him. Eventually, the director of the unit, Miriam Ballin, got him into the car and we convinced the police to get him and the policewoman who were most affected by their friend’s death away from the scene.
Other team members helped treat the EMS responders who came to the scene and had to treat a fallen officer. That is never an easy situation to deal with. While we are not officially a part of the same organization as the police, first responders are a protective lot and we always care for one of our own, no matter what color their uniform is.
I am glad I was able to be there to help the other officers and EMS personnel who were suffering. While I am sad that I was not able to “get through” properly to the policeman, knowing that I helped some of the people deal with the situation and their feelings right after this traumatic event helped me recognize just how important the work that we do is.
I think our presence of being at the scene just for them gave them comfort simply because we showed that we cared about them and validated their feelings. That is something which is important to everyone, whether you are a first responder, a bystander, or an injured person. Knowing that someone arrived to care for you, to listen to you, and to help you get through the pain, horror, and hell that you are going through can sometimes make all the difference in the world.”
– Allegra Mascisch, Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit Volunteer First Responder with United Hatzalah