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For Newtown's Volunteer EMTs, Work Doesn't Stop

The volunteer ambulance corps were among first responders on the scene at Sandy Hook Friday morning, and they've barely caught their breath since. They spoke with Patch Wednesday about what it's been like.


No emergency medical technician wants to see a day like last Friday in Sandy Hook

Newtown's Volunteer Ambulance Corps (NVAC) were among the first on the scene after police. Secretary-Treasurer Jordan Reed told Patch he started getting texts between 9:30 and 10 a.m. saying "something weird was happening." He rushed away from his day job to man the control center in the back room of their headquarters at 77 Main St.

On Friday, around 35 EMTs responded to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Most of the first responders went in at the beginning and didn't come out for five hours, he said — it was getting dark when NVAC sent in the second crew to relieve the first responders.

For EMTs, work never stops, he said — and they could only face their feelings after first helping a town in need. The days ahead were difficult, Reed said. Some residents and families needed comfort. And calls didn't stop coming in.

"It's days like Friday that you really sometimes ask: being volunteer and not being paid, why do I keep doing what I do?" said Reed. "And while that's a hard question, it comes down to: you want to be there for the community. You like being available to help when you can. It's rough on us, but not nearly as rough as the families. And in the coming weeks, we'll still be there."

After five days, NVAC opened its doors to media Wednesday for the first time since the tragedy. The organization is an all-volunteer corps, made up of about 70 Newtown residents with EMT certifications, and they've been serving Newtown since the 1940s. The largest volunteer ambulance corps in the state, said Reed, they handle more than 2,200 calls annually, and their volunteers log more than 30,000 hours every year.

Like the rest of the community, members of the corps were grieving, too. Every night after Friday, Reed said, the corps comes back to the garage at headquarters. It's a chance to be among friends — a second family for many, he said, people who understand each other through their shared experiences.

"And even if we're not talking about Friday," he said, "At least we're always around people who know what you're going through."

The first responder mentality is to get the job done and worry about it later. It's a common state of mind for emergency professionals. But there has to be a time for reflection, Reed said.

"Everyone goes on autopilot," he said. "You're here to do a job and you have to focus on that. And that's exactly what people did, whether they were [at the station] and overwhelmed, or on scene and dealing with seeing some awful stuff and trying to help families. When you get back here and started to realize the scope of it, it started to hit."

Maintaining the ambulance fleet is important, but funding is limited, and it takes priority over facilities for the volunteers who sometimes come close to living at headquarters. They're in the process of funding a new building, and Reed said they could use new equipment and training rooms. The facility is small enough that two can barely walk abreast in the winding back hallways, and only one bed is available for the 24/7 volunteers — everyone else sleeps on couches in the rec room.

Fortunately, they haven't been alone since Friday. Emergency corps from California to Maine have offered them help. They've offered coverage for Christmas to allow EMTs much-needed time to spend with their families. But Newtown's volunteer ambulance corps are still working, even if it's just helping the community heal.

"The first responders here [were sometimes] helping by holding a family's hand or trying to get a glass of water — you shift gears," he said. "It's not the EMS mentality to go in and have nothing to do. When we realized there was nothing to be done, we shifted gears and it became about helping. Our EMTs and other EMTs stepped up to the plate."

And coverage continues.

"We were there for them on Friday," Reed said. "But as an ambulance corps, we've always been here, and we'll continue to be here."

faith December 20, 2012 at 12:41 PM
god bless all of u. nancy from new jersey
P Tichon December 20, 2012 at 01:42 PM
So proud of and thankful for all of you. You are a truly amazing group of volunteers. Pam T. from Newtown
Jordan Reed December 20, 2012 at 03:48 PM
jbvtme: I can understand your wish to know the more personal details about this, but it is not our place to discuss it. If you would like to know those, please contact Lt. Paul Vance from Connecticut State Police. Legally and morally there is no need or availability to include those details. It was an awful situation all around and thank you for respecting our privacy.
Dart December 20, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Thank you Jordan for your well written, calm response. I totally agree with you, there is no need for any of us to know these details, how could it possible be of help to know the awful details of this heartbreaking tragedy. Instead of looking for this information, do something to help, make a donation to the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Association or any of the Newtown Fire Departments. They are all volunteers and need all the support we can give them. My heart breaks for the town I grew up in.
jbvtme December 20, 2012 at 04:39 PM
i believe "the devil is in the details". for example, initial reports state that the 223 rifle was found in the trunk of the car. that only two hand guns were found at the scene. also, a second (and possibly a third) gunman was apprehended in the woods at the scene. what about the dark colored suv with the back window blown out? i would think a person has a moral obligation to reveal what they know about this tragedy in order to prevent it from happening again.
Evester1970 December 20, 2012 at 05:08 PM
jbvtime: I am at appauled over your questions. How dare you ask something like that. They saw horror!!! Something no one would want to see!!! you are a sick individual.
Rose Tenewitz December 20, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I think your as sick as the gunman was Why would YOU need to know details of the horrible incident? Lets the Familys of Newtown heal and count your blessing that we have responders who care,Rose from Florence SC
Dart December 20, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I am sure the investigators have interviewed all witnesses and anyone else who has information to contribute. There is no need for the rest of us to know the details. There were many incorrect reports from the media, that were then corrected. The details you are looking for in your first post have nothing to do with preventing this from happening again. You should be ashamed for your lack of respect. If you are truly so concerned, then do something to help as I said in my earlier reply to you.
jbvtme December 20, 2012 at 06:26 PM
long time resident...let me get this straight. you are asking me to contribute money to an organization (newtown emt) which can and will not communicate with me about the details of what they do? and that i should be ashamed for asking questions of an organization which serves the public? why is there no need for the people to know the details of this incident? don't the people have the right to know what goes on in their community?
Jordan Reed December 20, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Everyone, please let's not respond further to this poster "jbvtme". Just let it be, as there will be no convincing of him/her. We are getting distracted from the bigger picture which is that the details don't matter, and it's the larger incident impacting the entire community that really is important. Does it matter who carried the children? Does it matter who apprehended someone in the woods? No, that's the FBI and other law enforcement's job. So I urge you all not to engage further with him, as we have already had enough hurt in this town and he/she will just continue to make it worse by trying to re-live it for personal voyeuristic reasons. Thank you.
jbvtme December 20, 2012 at 07:07 PM
something "weird" happened last friday. i agree. today some ambulance driver is asking the community to keep quiet about it. now that's weird.
Amanda Smith December 20, 2012 at 08:26 PM
We should all be so lucky to have volunteers, workers, supporters and neighbors like everyone in Newtown. The first responders deserve a huge amount of praise. I wish you all peace and thank you from the bottom of my heart. I've hugged my children extra in the past week. I wish I could hug you all too.
Michael Trevail December 20, 2012 at 09:27 PM
These guys rock!
Ed December 20, 2012 at 10:34 PM
jbvtme, I am a retired EMT from another small town in CT. I don't know any of the NVAC EMTs, but my first thought when I heard the news that morning was what an awful job they had. I've had to declare many people dead in my career, but never 26 at once, and never 20 small children. That had to have been an experience that will be burned in their brains for life. I cannot imagine. Your posts are rude and insulting. You want a description of blood and gore? Then go watch a horror movie. These people don't want to relive that scene, and certainly not just to satisfy your morbid curiosity. Now please just shut up and leave these good people alone.
Ed December 20, 2012 at 11:15 PM
You just don't get it, do you? They've been told to refer questions to the state police so there will be one source of factual information instead of a thousand opinions, rumors and inaccuracies. There are grieving friends and family who will read what's written here, and the last thing they need is intimate details from what must have been a horrific scene. There is no conspiracy here, only a tragedy. If I had been there, I wouldn't give you details either. You have no need to know, and they have no obligation to tell you. I recommend you go join the NVAC and work as an EMT for a few years. Perhaps then you will understand just how rude and insensitive your questions are.
jbvtme December 20, 2012 at 11:30 PM
ed...the state police are on record as threatening legal sanctions on social media sites for disseminating false information on this case. why do the state police have a monopoly on the press regarding this issue? the more first hand information we have the more we can cultivate informed decisions as to what actually happened. any words on the subject of the emt's who were there could hardly be construed as opinion, innacuracy or rumor. the nvac held a press interview on wednesday. they said nothing material which enlightened me.
CDC December 20, 2012 at 11:38 PM
It's funny how the Patch seems like the perfect place to attract disgruntled (sometimes local) people who have a hard time discerning normal adult behavior and provocative, tastelessness. There 's one just like him in my town....the police and all of us know who he is too--keep your eyes open wide for this one and fight like hell for better mental health care...he's probably been identified since elementary school...
CDC December 20, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Btw, Patch in my town does not allow people like this to keep posting if the comments are in poor taste...fyi
Dart December 20, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Repeat of an earlier post from emt764 Everyone, please let's not respond further to this poster "jbvtme". Just let it be, as there will be no convincing of him/her. We are getting distracted from the bigger picture which is that the details don't matter, and it's the larger incident impacting the entire community that really is important. Does it matter who carried the children? Does it matter who apprehended someone in the woods? No, that's the FBI and other law enforcement's job. So I urge you all not to engage further with him, as we have already had enough hurt in this town and he/she will just continue to make it worse by trying to re-live it for personal voyeuristic reasons. Thank you.
RickK December 20, 2012 at 11:58 PM
jbvtme, are you aware of the book "Voodoo Histories" by David Aaronovitch? It is about conspiracy theories throughout history and about the types of people who concoct them. You should read it.
Ed December 21, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Here's what happened: a lone gunman shot his way through the glass doors of Sandy Hook elementary school. He then proceeded to murder 6 adults and 20 children before killing himself. There. Now you know what happened, so STFU.
Mr D. December 21, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Yes. DO NOT FEED THE TROLL!
jbvtme December 21, 2012 at 01:04 AM
long term resident...the role of the police and fbi is to enforce the law. the role of the people is to gather and judge the facts. when we give up on that job, we are no longer free.
jbvtme December 21, 2012 at 01:06 AM
rick...who said anything about a conspiracy? oops...emt764 mentioned someone being apprehended in the woods...
jbvtme December 21, 2012 at 01:08 AM
cdc...a free and open society does not control the flow of information on any issue. check out the first amendment. the soviet gulags were filled by stalin with "mental" patients during his reign. read some solzhenitsyn. everyone wants to know why this happened. you can only find that by asking questions. the truth is often provocative and tasteless. but it's still the truth.
jbvtme December 21, 2012 at 01:09 AM
ed...were you there?
Marilyn December 21, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Who said they were in the building for 5 hours? Why would they be allowed in the building. All transmissions that have been released were that they were staged at the fire house.
jbvtme December 21, 2012 at 03:53 AM
"On Friday, around 35 EMTs responded to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Most of the first responders went in at the beginning and didn't come out for five hours, he said — it was getting dark when NVAC sent in the second crew to relieve the first responders."

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