It’s no secret that throughout a career in the Police, as with any emergency service, there will be jobs you go to that you just won’t ever forget.
Sure, they’ll get easier to think about, they won’t make you cry, you won’t struggle to sleep and get flashbacks, but you’ll always remember them. Whether it be your first suicide, first car crash, first domestic, first arrest, first time you were assaulted, things will stick in your head. They make you who you are.
These jobs don’t just test you as a person, they test everything. You go home and don’t want to talk, your other half can’t make you feel better, nobody can relate to what you’re feeling, because the truth is, you don’t know how you feel yourself, not yet anyway.
My first “one of those” jobs was when I had about 16 weeks service under my belt. I wasn’t being tutored any more, I could drive and go to jobs by myself, but I had only four months experience on shift. Truth be told, nothing can prepare you for some jobs.
It was about eight o’clock in the morning, it was just after Christmas, and I was single crewed. I was working in a different city to the one I normally do, and I was by myself.
Sat in the office, my colleague was with me. He was also single crewed. I was trying to down a cup of tea before going to a job I had been sent to. It wasn’t ongoing, it was just to take a report. Then I got diverted.
“We have reports of a man on the tracks”
“A man or a body?”
“We don’t know, that’s all the information we have”
Shit. Probably one of the only jobs I’ve never wanted to go to. How do you deal with the worst case scenario? How do you even start to deal with it?
Because my colleague is ace, he jumped in with me, and we went together. I’ll never be able to say thank you enough for that. I genuinely couldn’t have dealt with that job by myself. Because it was the worst case scenario, it was a man who had been hit by a train.
Carnage. I can’t even begin to explain how I felt when I leant over the bridge and saw what I did. Now what. I shouted at my colleague, who lucky for them, was looking over the other side of the bridge! We waited for Network Rail to confirm that all trains had been stopped and the lines were off, before navigating the most precarious set of steps down to the tracks.
First time for everything, I hadn’t walked on a railway line before that day, let alone dealt with this. On the outside, I was calm and doing what I had to, inside I was breaking. This was somebody’s son, maybe a dad or a husband? That’s not important right now. If I thought too much about that, I wouldn’t have got through the day.
Ambulance came, and quickly went, as it was clear even they couldn’t do anything to help. The Body Recovery Team, a Sergeant, another Sergeant and an Inspector all turned up. Was this a crime scene? Was it a suicide? Was it an accident?
A few hours later, the undertakers came and took the man away, then slowly but surely, we all left.
We got back in the car, and didn’t say anything. Somehow the silence was loud. Neither of us had been to a job like that before, there were no words, but I found comfort in not being alone.
Our Sergeant called us back to the station for a debrief. “Are you ok?” she said. I think I replied with “I don’t know”. How do you explain how you feel after that. Numb? Upset? Scared? Shocked? All of the above?
To be honest I’m not sure even now, nearly two years later, that I could find the words to explain how I felt. I’d never dealt with trauma on that scale before. I can talk about it now without getting flashbacks, without being upset, but somehow, sometimes, it still feels like it was only last week.
You learn to cope in this job, that’s for sure. Jobs get easier, trauma becomes normal, and you find a way to cope. I’m lucky in that my husband will give me a cuddle when I walk through the door, and then do anything in his power to distract me. He knows there’s no point in talking it over and over. We go for dinner, or play a game, just something to distract me, and that works. I’m grateful for that, he helps more than he probably realises, he’s my rock.