Some officers forced their way into Sandy Hook Elementary School to stop the bloody carnage inside; others worked the gruesome crime scene combing for evidence.
Now many of the first responders who received widespread praise in the aftermath of the shooting are suffering from acute psychological and emotional issues.
"It's been a difficult time for them," said Eric Brown, a lawyer with AFSCME Council 15, which represents the Newtown Police Department. He said about 15 officers have been so traumatized by viewing the bloodied bodies of 20 first-graders and their six female educators, as well as dealing with grief-stricken families, that they have been unable to work in recent days.
"The way the Workmen's Compensation law is written, it does not allow for mental and emotional assistance," he said. "If an officer hurt his back three years ago and it flared up again, it would be covered. But if one of these officers suffering from post-traumatic syndrome experiences a flare up from a triggering event years from now, it's not covered. This is an unprecedented event."
But for now, he said, the officers have been using their 10 sick days, which do not carry over from year to year.
"By the third week of January, they will have used them all up," Brown said. "After that I hope they aren't forced to go into their vacation time or down the road be going without a paycheck."
State Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, who co-chairs the state Legislature's Public Safety and Security committee, said he already has submitted a bill that will redefine and expand the term "first responders."
"I've always felt deeply for the first responders who are running into a situation while everyone else is running away," Dargan said Wednesday. "We as elected officials should not be running away from them."
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