Rushing Into a Terror Attack – An Open Letter From the First Responder On Scene at the Halamish Attack

On Friday Night United Hatzalah volunteer EMS personnel left their families at their dinner tables and ran into, not away from, a terror attack that took place right next to their homes.

 

Doron Mah Tov lives in the town of Halamish and was the first medical responders at the scene of the heinous attack that claimed the lives of Yosef, Elad and Chaya Salomon and injured Yosef’s wife Tova. The grandfather, uncle, and aunt had been celebrating the birth of a new baby boy together with the rest of the family when the terrorist killed them in cold blood in their own home.

 

Following the Attack, Doron Mah Tov wrote of his experience of being the first responder and treating his friends and neighbors.

Doron Mah Tov on duty

Doron Mah Tov on duty

“My family was just finishing our Friday night meal together. This is usually a festive time for us, as it is for all Jews, as it ushers in the Shabbat, a peaceful day of rest. Our neighbors down the street were having a special celebration as their son and daughter in law had just given birth to a new baby boy. The grandparents were hosting a gathering for the entire community. Their joy turned to sadness when a terrorist entered their unlocked home and began stabbing anyone he could. The uncle of the new infant rushed to protect his family, the grandfather and aunt were caught in the mix, and the grandmother also sustained wounds. These people were my neighbors and my friends and it became my duty to try and save their lives. The sanctity of the day turned into tragedy.  

 

A soldier who was in the house opposite heard the commotion ran outside and shot the terrorist in the stomach, neutralizing, but not killing him. The alert went out. I got the call that there had been an incident and ran out with my medical gear in order to provide whatever help I could. The soldier, who had run outside to bring help waved me inside the house. I arrived just seconds after the dispatch center informed me of the incident and I saw the grandfather and uncle dead at the scene. Here was a new uncle who would never see his nephew grow up and a grandfather who would never have the joy of bouncing his new grandson on his knee. But I had to put these emotions aside and see if I could help others who needed me. I began CPR on the aunt who was badly injured but still alive. Other responders joined me and we continued resuscitative efforts as long as we could. Unfortunately, she too succumbed to her wounds.

 

We moved on to treat the grandmother, attempting to save her from death’s grasp. Luckily her wounds were not as severe and we were able to treat and save her.

 

As an EMT you are trained to respond professionally to medical emergencies no matter what they are or who is in need of treatment. We have to take our emotions out of the picture for a time and act and react with a cool professionalism in order to save those whom we can, especially in circumstances as tragic as this. There will be times for tears later. At the scene, we cannot afford to be queasy but afterwards it can hit you like a truck. You have to be in the place where people need you because there is something that you can do in order to help them You can’t simply run the other way.

 

Scenes like this one are hard because you rush in and are in a state of shock at the scene you see before you. I saw three bodies on the ground in pools of blood all over the floor and walls.I said to myself,  “What do I need to do? What actions do I need to take to save the lives of these people in front of me?” As I quickly began to treat the wounded, I realized one of them was the terrorist. That is when one of the town’s security detail ushered me away from him as I myself was not wearing any protective gear.

What is it like to rush into a scene of a terror attack, with no protective gear, no helmet or bullet proof vest, to try to save the lives of my friends and my neighbors? It is a very uncomfortable and even scary feeling. Here I am treating my friends and neighbors who are wounded and at any time the terrorist can jump up and attack us again. Without a neck guard, helmet or bullet proof vest, I’m exposed. While in this instance the security detail was guarding the terrorist who was still alive, I know that all it takes is one quick swipe at my neck with a knife or one lucky shot and I’d be lying right there with my friends who I came to help. What makes it worse is that I need to be focused on treating the wounded.

 

So why do it? Simple. Saving the lives of others, especially if they are my friends and neighbors, is the greatest calling and the greatest responsibility that exists. There is an element of fear involved, I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t. We swallow that fear and we go anyway for the price of not doing so is too high to contemplate.

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Today I am going to the funeral of my neighbors, of my friends, of those whose celebration turned into a tragedy. Today I remember the dead and I let the emotions wash over me. The adrenaline is over and the cool calm professionalism has abated. It will come again when needed for the next time I need to answer a call, though I pray with all my heart to never have to answer another call like this one.”

–         Doron Mah Tov

 

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