Concern, tolerance needed

Posted:  Tuesday, November 14, 2017 - 8:30am

On Oct.5, I went to Las Vegas as part of the Red Cross Response to the mass casualty shooting at Mandalay Bay Resort Concert. From the moment I arrived the morbid feelings of chaos, panic, loss, intense anxiety, shock, disbelief, depression, and grief were paramount. It was my role as a disaster mental health worker to engage these victims of such a disaster which was the worst shooting on record.

The vast majority of these Red Cross volunteers came from out of state to begin the process of impacting the chaos that ensued. It involved many agencies – local, state and federal government — Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), law enforcement, etc.. The FBI was in charge of coordinating the entire response inviting the Red Cross as well as many other health, mental health and social agencies to participate.

We worked in teams first in the community, starting with hospital visits to work with the families of victims and to provide intense support to the families of the deceased . Within the Las Vegas Convention Center – the Family Assistance Center was established, which became the central facility for maximum support of those who were affected by the chaos and tragedy they experienced.

Our primary task as disaster mental health workers was to engage these clients – victims and families – and help them regain their sense of self and feeling of safety and control. The goal was to provide services for these victims who were grieving and struggling to gain composure of their lives and day to day activities.

You could only imagine the impact on the concert-goers in Las Vegas – the disbelief, shock, sadness, anxiety, fear, depression and guilt was massive for the thousands at the event. Their struggle will be a long and arduous process which involves the grieving process to begin to experience and deal with their losses and continue with their lives. As Poet McNair stated, “Heartbreak, however hard it is to go though, is one of the main avenues of humanity.”

Also experienced was the tremendous resiliency noted by the many individual acts of courage, bravery and commitment to their fellow concert-goers by first responders, police, security and staff of the hotel as they sought safety and security from the chaos of the shooting.

I can only appreciate my return to the State of Maine which is different than most states that we must maintain and keep. It must be our goal to provide care and protection to all our neighbors by reflecting concern, tolerance, patience and involvement in our communities. We must appreciate our community interveners such as our first responders, firemen and police to assure we engage, care for and provide safety and protection for all our neighbors to prevent the ”Heartbreak” as experienced in Las Vegas.

Jack Sarmanian