NMMC TO HELP JACKSON EMERGENCY PERSONNEL COPE WITH SHOOTING
By Marty Russell
Members of North Mississippi Medical Center’s Critical Incident Stress Management Team have been asked to travel to Jackson to help emergency workers there recover from the trauma associated with a shooting that left four people dead and two wounded at one of the city’s fire stations.
“We will be conducting a debriefing process,” said Gail Wood, a community relations representative with NMMC’s Behavioral Health Center and a member of the CISM team.
That process involves helping the emergency workers, including both medical workers and firemen, talk about the incident and put it behind them so they can return to work and a normal life.
“A lot of time the stress hits them and they become depressed, and a lot of the time people wind up leaving the profession,” Wood said. “They’re always dealing with death and dying and very stressful situations, and then something like this happens and a lot of people start having nightmares or flashbacks about other things that have happened.”
Wednesday, a firefighter apparently angry about his treatment at work opened fire at Jackson’s Central Fire Station downtown with a semi-automatic weapon, killing four department officials and wounding two others. The suspect, Kenneth Tornes, apparently had earlier killed his estranged wife.
Tornes was apprehended when he was wounded in the left eye during a shootout with police at a Ridgeland mall. A Ridgeland police officer was also wounded in that shootout.
Wood said about three CISM team members from Tupelo will travel to Jackson next week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday, to begin talking with emergency workers there.
“They wanted us to wait until after the funerals are over,” she said.
The CISM team is made up of mental health professionals and peer support personnel from sources such as the Mississippi Highway Patrol, the Natchez Trace Parkway rangers, the Tupelo Fire Department, the Tupelo Police Department and members of the North Mississippi EMS Authority.
At least one hospital employee will be going to Jackson in advance of the CISM team. Ike Roebuck, manager of the hospital’s ambulance service, served with one of the victims of Wednesday’s shooting, Rick Robins, when Roebuck worked as a paramedic for the Jackson Fire Department.
“I plan to go down Saturday to the memorial service or whenever it’s scheduled,” Roebuck said. He said Robins was a captain at the fire station where he worked in the late 1980s.
“I still talked to him on several occasions and would occasionally run into him at meetings,” Roebuck said. “Rick was an extremely good person. He was well liked by his peers and the personnel who served under him. He was the type of person who wouldn’t ask you to do something he wouldn’t do himself.”
Roebuck said he sympathized with the Jackson emergency personnel who have had to deal with not one but two shootings in recent weeks that involved numerous victims. On April 12, white supremacist Larry Shoemake killed one person and wounded 10 others before killing himself while holed up in an abandoned restaurant.
“When you have multiple patients die like that and some of them being people you work with on a daily basis, it’s tough to deal with,” Roebuck said.
Wood said, despite their on-the-job demeanor, emergency personnel feel the tragedy of such situations also.
“You don’t often see how they respond once they’re by themselves or back at the station,” she said. “Things do affect them just like me and you.”