East Hampton Town had not had a murder on the books in a decade, double that for Montauk, where there had not been such violence in 22 years. In less than one month, Montauk saw three, one a double-homicide of the most unspeakable kind; a Medford mother allegedly killed twin 2-year-olds.
While the court cases develop, let’s not forget about the emergency personnel who responded to both scenes. The effects of tragedies like these ripple beyond the victims and their families. The enormity of three murder victims found in parks two miles away from each other in a place with relatively low crime needs to be acknowledged. The men and women from the East Hampton Town Police and Montauk Fire Departments tried to revive the victims, and we know some of the same officers and volunteers responded to both horrific scenes, starting with the death of Robert Casado in Montauk’s Kirk Park on June 6.
Exactly three weeks later, on June 27, a chaotic scene unfolded in Montauk County Park when police came upon Tenia Campbell, who had exited her car and was walking toward the first arriving officer, screaming to be shot. Many of the officers there that day are parents, some with children not much older than Jasmine and Jaida Campbell, the twins found pulseless and apneic in their car seats. Michael Sarlo, the town police chief, credited the first officer for her restraint, thanks to good training, and the ability to quickly gain control of an unthinkable situation.
Emergency medical service personnel, both volunteer and paid, followed closely behind the police, relying on their own training to try to revive the toddlers. Two Montauk ambulances, in tandem, made the 26-mile journey from Montauk to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital in heavy traffic with unknowing drivers making the trip no easier.
Let’s face it, no amount of training can really prepare anyone for such stress. It will affect each and every person differently and our hope is that all the emergency workers, from the dispatchers to the detectives, the ambulance drivers to the E.M.T.s, take care of themselves and each other. Emotions creep up, not just in the days after such tragedies, but in the weeks, months, even years ahead.
Good leadership has ensured Suffolk County Emergency Services Critical Incident Stress Management Team was made available to all the emergency responders. Critical incident stress debriefings are meant to mitigate the effects of such tragedies — though it is worth noting these debriefings are available for any type of call.
The fire departments, particularly the volunteers who leave their families and work to answer 911 calls, and the police deserve our admiration and thanks, of course. They also deserve our support. These personnel cannot, outside of a debriefing, among themselves or eventually in court, speak about what they saw, but there are other ways you can let them know you are thinking of them.
We are reminded of a recent clip making its rounds on social media of an officer in Chandler, Ariz., who talked a man off a ledge by promising him a hug. Sometimes a hug, or even a handshake, or buying a man or woman in line at 7-Eleven wearing a Montauk Fire Department T-shirt a cup of coffee, just lets them know you are thinking of them.
The healing process has surely begun. We wish all those involved well on their journey.