I see dead people…

Remember that old movie with Bruce Willis and that one kid that was in those 90’s movies? The one kid that saw and talked to dead people? Yea? I’m not that kid and this is not what this is about. I actually see and have seen plenty of dead people… On a pretty regular basis.

I have been in fire department for close to fourteen years now and have seen what I would call some “interesting things”. Things I honestly wish I could un-see. Never the less I have seen them and will never forget them.

For me I guess its normal, but is it really normal? When I go to work people call me and my coworkers because there is an emergency. They call us in their worst moments. They call us because they need saving, but we cant save everyone.

The gunshots, stabbings, cardiac arrests, over doses, and fatal car accidents… Or maybe it was the breathing difficulty call that turned bad when the guy didn’t make it. I can still see his face… Or maybe the young mom who overdosed and left her four year old behind. I can still see her laying on the ground in the parking lot…

I have very vivid memories of people I wish we could have saved. Most days I don’t know what to do with them. You would say therapy. Right? That doesn’t make them go away. They will forever be ingrained in my mind and I don’t know that I will ever forget. So some days I just stare and act like they don’t exist. Its just easier this way. Not healthy, but easier.

I also know I am not the only fireman that feels this way. We just don’t talk about it much. Its a lot easier to ignore it and pretend like we are not effected by the things we have seen. I can assure you this, we are affected, and it all goes somewhere. Sure, we’re tough. Some of us. But mentally, inside, we don’t know what to do with everything we have seen and our respective departments are not offering much help.

At the most you’ll get a couple of free sessions and they will send you on your way, and then you are back in the shit all over again… I wish I had a simple answer for it all, but I don’t. Right now I think its important that we start a conversation and keep it going.

This is me starting the conversation in my area of influence…


7 thoughts on “I see dead people…

  1. 15 years in 911 dispatch and I was always thankful that I didn’t have to see some of the stuff I dealt with on calls. Even so, I can think of the dozen or so people who spoke to me just before they died from some awful medical situation, or shot themselves… screams of family members, calls with kids, etc., and sometimes I think my imagination makes it worse.

    My dad is a retired medic and firefighter… i know all the stories. I’ve heard everything under the sun. I can’t imagine the toll of all those years and seeing all that insanity. God bless you.


  2. Josh Thank you for starting this conversation. I am honored to know you and call you brother. When I came into the fire service/EMS it was a sign of weakness to let your emotions show. So we bottled it up inside and ignored it. I recently read an article that talked about how our minds work when we go on a call. We have to make critical decisions and must be analytical and cannot afford to let the emotional side of our brains take over. So we file the emotions away. However they are still there and the tend to come out at inappropriate times. We find we take it out on our family or friends, or we turn to things like drugs, alcohol, sex, anything to release the emotion or force it back into that box we try to keep it locked away in. But it refuses to stay and haunts us in our daily lives and those ghosts visit us in our sleep, refusing to allow us a peaceful nights sleep leaving us both physically and emotionally drained. And there is not a concerted effort by departments to recognize or deal with this problem other then what you spoke of. As brothers and sisters we need to be honest with each other and admit what we feel and share. When we realize we are all in this together and acknowledge our pain to each other then a healing process can begin. We may never be whole again but being able to share what we are feeling and be able to verbalize it to others who understand exactly what we are going through can at least ease some of the pain and help us to make friends with those ghosts. God Bless Josh and thank you again for your influence and leadership.


  3. Hey Josh,
    This is one of the reason I started 3Strand. I have the greatest respect for guys like you; guys who put their lives on the line when the “shit” hits the fan. The fact my oldest son is a firefighter and has seen things no father wishes his child should see led to the chaplaincy aspect of 3Strand. You are right in that “talking” about the sights doesn’t allow you to “un-see” them, but it does help the brain compartmentalize the traumatic vision. Please keep me in mind should you need anything.
    Be Blessed!
    Vernon Brant
    Founder, 3Strand Inc.


  4. Wow Josh! In addition to being an amazing fire fighter, you are a incredible writer! I can’t even fathom what you and other first responders go though day in and day out. Reading this really puts things in perspective for me, especially when I’m having a bad day at work and stressed out because we are not making enough soda/beer cans. I appreciate you so much and love you man!

    Love Papa Ed


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