Tahlequah Daily Press

Z_CNHI News Service

November 20, 2013

First responders relive harrowing day



Deputy Swinford said it affected him differently than disasters in the past because he was at Plaza Towers. He was there with the children.

“Being in law enforcement as long as I’ve been in, you’ve seen horrible things. But when you’re dealing with children, it takes it to a whole new level,” Swinford said.

Lewis said it affected officers in different ways and many times a lot of police officers hold things in like that, but they have people for them to talk to.

“Really when you see the death and destruction, but you’re in the middle of doing your job, you don’t really deal with it, you just do your job,” Swinford said, adding that it’s in your down time that you start thinking about it and have to deal with it.

Swinford began his career in law enforcement about 25 years ago so he knew talking through what he saw would be healthy.

“In the days after I talked about it a lot. There was a lot of emotion there,” he said.

Talking about it is important and if anyone is struggling with something, they definitely should visit a counselor, Swinford said. It’s very difficult for police officers’ personalities to go ask for help but if you bury it then it will surface later, he said.

“It’s sad. It’s extremely sad and that will always be there, but I think you just have to process that,” he said.

Lewis said after the tornado and after the police department had gone back to normal shifts, everyone went through a debriefing with counselors present. The city also offers counseling for anything police run into whether it be a major disaster or another kind of incident.

Things are starting to get back to normal though, good things could be found despite the bad, and with an outpouring of support, Moore is bouncing back quicker than ever.

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