January 24, 2013 by Julie Montanaro
A retired Tallahassee police officer has just returned from Newtown, Connecticut where he offered counseling and prayers to men and women shaken by the Sandy Hook shooting rampage.
The men and women he focused on wore uniforms and badges too.
Kelly Burke spent 25 years as a Tallahassee Police officer. He's seen lots of things he'd like to forget.
He's an assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel now and just got back from five days in Newtown, Connecticut.
His job? Reaching out to first responders who showed up that day to the unimaginable.
He remembered hearing one of them say "You respond thinking Who am I going to save today? Who am I going to help?" He got there and there was nothing he could do for these 20 kids and that grabbed him," Burke said.
Burke is part of Billy Graham's Rapid Response Team. He's been to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake. New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy, and now to Newtown.
Each time, he seeks out first responders.
Certified traumatologist Ken Fowler says those men and women are trained to do just that respond, but they too have a breaking point
"It's even harder if you have a six year old at home and you go in and you see a six year old that's been riddled with bullets. These kids weren't just shot once, they were shot multiple times. That impacts you," Fowler said.
Burke still responds in time of crises, but it's no longer to keep the peace. Rather it's to try to bring peace to first responders who come face to face with devastation ... both natural ... and man made
"You see a lot of things. But there are those that make you say, "This one's going to take some getting over." If there is such a thing and there's not any getting over it. You can't undo the event. You just have to learn to put it in its proper place and learn to seek the good that can come out of that," Burke said.
Both men say bottling up those feelings beneath a tough guy exterior is one of the worst things first responders can do.