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Sandy Hook Elementary: How First Responders Cope

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Everyone reacts differently to stress and horrific situations.

First responders have to find a way to set aside their emotions while they're reacting to emergencies.

It's difficult to imagine how that was possible in Newtown Connecticut as details emerge from inside Sandy Hook Elementary.

Local law enforcement officers stress training and preparation.

Rock Island County Sheriff Jeff Boyd says emergency crews need to keep their professional and personal lives separate while they're on a call.

Training helps, for example, investigators focus on gathering evidence and documenting a crime scene thoroughly.

Seeing a victim though is never something a first responder gets used to, but understanding how to react is crucial.

"You prepare yourself to deal with pretty much anything and everything, and over a period of time, you are exposed to scenes and training, as far as yesterday I don't know that you can fully prepare mentally for something like that," says Boyd.

The pictures coming from Sandy Hook Elementary show a community in shock. As people try to understand what unfolded, first responders play a critical role building the timeline. A story they may not be fully prepared for themselves.

"Anytime I deal with things that are extremely stressful, things you haven't been able to prepare for, I always turn to faith, family, and friends."

Boyd says stress impacts everyone. First responders train themselves to control it, but Boyd says certain situations catch a person off guard. For him, it was a baby death investigation case.

"I happened to have my oldest son who was that exact same age, that exact same scenario, I kind of transformed what I had done professionally into my personal life and it affected me."

He found comfort in his work. Pushing aside his own reactions to provide answers to the grieving family.

"Trying to answer all the questions to the family, trying to put together the case in such a way that anything that came out of that tragic death hopefully we could learn from and provide that information to people so it doesn't happen again."

Boyd expects many of the officers assigned to Sandy Hook will take the same approach. Waiting till the end of a case to debrief.

"That puts a certain amount of finality on the incident, and that's what you're kind of looking for, is to answer the questions, go through the grieving process, everyone's a little different, and put some finality to it."

Allowing the emergency crews to process what they've seen, react to their emotions, and prepare themselves to answer the next call.