For men and women working as first responders, work is not glamorous, but rather, quite traumatizing.
Responding to tragedy after tragedy, year after year, takes its toll on the heart and mind, leaving those in the field trying to cope with the devastation they witness firsthand.
Brad Silvestro, a paramedic in Sonoma County, California, told the story of what it is like to have a career where you “see things you never should.”
After a string of back-to-back tragedies in his community, Silvestro wrote to Frank Somerville with KTVU to shed some light on what a first responder faces on the daily.
“You weren’t paying attention…lost in whatever it was that was on your mind or whatever you were listening to with your headphones and you didn’t realize the train was coming…my partner and I were the first ones there,” Silvestro began.
“You went to work,” he wrote, recounting another instance, “just like every other day. When you came home, the house was quiet…
“You went to his home office and there he was. He passed hours ago…and we were the first ones there. Two days ago he got the diagnosis.”
After handling those two sad deaths, Silvestro and his partner were slammed with a third:
“He seemed fine yesterday morning…even happy you said. You were in the shower when you heard ‘the noise.’
“You found him on the deck…handgun by his side…we were the first ones there.”
Silvestro and his partner were in the thick of the devastation, unable to take the pain away from the surviving family members, unable to make things better.
“In between all of this were the ‘routine’ calls for service. I’ve done this for a really long time. I love what I do. It’s my purpose on this earth…I think.”
“We’re not heroes…we’re just doing what we do…and sometimes…often…it hurts.”
When we are seemingly inconvenienced by the work of a first responder — the traffic standstill on the freeway, having to pause our commute to give an ambulance the right-of-way, or having a conversation with a paramedic that is less than 100 percent professional, Silvestro asked for grace and understanding.
“We do things that you couldn’t,” Silvestro wrote. “We’re giving everything we can when all seems lost.”
“I took today off because I’m done,” he wrote. “I have nothing left to give.”
“I need to be with my family. I need to sleep the sleep of normal people. I want to walk the dogs and try to forget the last few days.”
Silvestro requested that KTVU did not share his photo, because the story, he said, is not all about him.
The story represents all first responders who carry wounds from their line of work, including law enforcement, emergency medical staff, dispatchers, and social workers.
“It’s about what people like me see and do on a daily basis and how it touches and…wounds us.”
“I love what I do and I carry scars from it. For 39 years, this has been my life. I am hoping people will share this so they know what it’s really like for us.”
Liftable, a section of The Western Journal, has reached out to Silvestro for comment but has not yet received a response. We will update this article if and when we do.
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