First responders protect the public, and as their name suggests, they are the first on the scene when we are in trouble. Consequently, they are witness to numerous traumatic incidents and are exceedingly prone to conditions such as depression and PTSD. It’s estimated that 30% of responders develop behavioral health problems, as compared with 20% in the general population.
In honor of these first responders, who put their lives on the line for us every day, we have collected some of the most powerful photos (and videos) of first responders on the scene.
Police comforting a victim after the Virginia Beach Shooting
Not only do police run into an active shooter situation prepared to take down the criminals, they’re also there to help the victims afterward. This photo was taken after the Virginia Beach Shooting on May 31, 2019, in which twelve people were fatally shot and four others wounded. This police officer attempts to comfort a man who is clearly in shock.
Police Run Towards Gunshots
It’s natural to run away from danger. For law enforcement officers, the opposite is true. While civilians panic and run away from gunshots or violence, police officers will rush full-force towards the peril.
This moment was captured on film by a UNCC student back in April 2019. As students frantically left campus, several officers can be seen running towards the sound of gunshots.
One of the shooting victims, Drew Pescara, survived the incident because of the assistance of law enforcement officers. After being shot, the police officers that were attending to him realized there wouldn’t be enough time to call an ambulance. Pescara stated, “So, they just picked me up by my legs and arms, two cops, and put me in the back of a cop car and took me to the closest hospital.”
Video Source: The Washington Post
Police Officers Standing in Solitary with the Muslim Community
In March 2019, New Zealand was shocked when a white-supremacist gunman attacked mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during a Friday prayer service. A total of 51 people were killed and another 49 individuals were injured. Police were able to respond to the scene within minutes of the first report of the incident, and twenty ambulances and other vehicles were sent to the location.
In the aftermath, Prime Minister Ardern raised the terrorism threat level to a high, a first for New Zealand. The government and law enforcement agencies took a very clear stance that Islamophobia would not be tolerated. The below picture made national headlines of a New Zealand officer wearing a headscarf as an act of solidarity with the New Zealand Muslim community.
Image Source: Global News, Photographer Alden Williams
First Responders at 9/11
We could’ve created an entire album of powerful, shocking, and heroic photos of first responders at the scene of 9/11. In fact, many people already have. When you Google ‘9/11 first responder photos’ you get over 3 million results. We’re going to showcase three today.
This image, captured by New York Daily News staff photographer David Handschuh, is of Assistant Chief Gerard A. Barbara. The photo captures him starting up at the burning towers. Just minutes later, he would enter the buildings, and never return.
Image Source: Huffington Post, Photographer David Handschuh
mage Source: Huffington Post, Photographer Todd Maisel
This photo is of first responders carrying New York Daily News staff photographer David Handschuh from the scene. Handschuh’s leg was shattered by falling debris as he was photographing the terrorist attack.
Image Source: Huffington Post, Photographer Todd Maisel
This last 9/11 photo shows two firefighters assisting another firefighter away from the wreckage. Of the 2,977 victims killed in the terrorist attack, 412 were first responders, making them constitute almost 14% of the casualties.
- 343 firefighters (including a chaplain and two paramedics) of the FDNY
- 37 police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department
- 23 police officers from the NYPD
- 8 emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency medical services
- 1 patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol
For many that survived, health issues such as cancer and severe respiratory disease (from inhaling the toxic fumes), is expected to take more lives.
Firefighters Offer Door-to-Door Help
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey pummeled through the Caribbean before moving to Houston and Southeast Texas. The hurricane caused at least 107 deaths, 106 of which were in the United States. In this photo, firefighters move from home to home in a neighborhood, checking on residents for any emergency needs. While residents had their homes and lives ripped apart, at least they could rely on the support of their local first responders to come to their aid.
Image Source: Dallas News
Firefighters Have American Pride
In 2017, the California wildfires became the state’s most destructive wildfire season on record at the time. According to state data, the wildfires killed 47 people, which constituted of 45 civilians and 2 firefighters. Additionally, 9 firefighters were injured. This was almost more casualties than the last 10 years of wildfires in California combined.
This now iconic photograph shows several firemen saving an American flag from burning, while wildfires rage in the background. This beautiful moment captures what first responders do for their country every day. They put their life on the line for the people of their country.
Image Source: Fox News, Photographer Josh Edelson
Polar Vortex Doesn’t Stop Firefighters
From hot temperatures to freezing cold, firefighters must do it all. During the famous 2019 Polar Vortex, a severe cold wave hit Eastern Canada and the Midwestern United States. The polar vortex brought freezing temperatures making it impossible for many cities to continue functioning. Almost 3,000 flights were canceled on January 30, 2019, and another 2,000 were canceled the next day. It’s estimated that at least 22 people died due to the cold wave, with most of these people suffering from hypothermia.
During this time, countless flights were canceled, schools closed down, and many people couldn’t make it into work, but first responders continued with their duty. First responders don’t get to take a break during natural disasters, in fact, that’s when they’re called on most.
This iconic photo made international headlines of a firefighter’s beard and face frozen over after battling a fire in -50° wind chill. It was reported that the hose spray froze before even hitting the fire, turning to pellets and hitting the firefighters.
Image Source: The Guardian
These photos are a great reminder of the difficult situations first responders are put in every day. We are lucky to live in a country where there are dedicated men and women who will rush to our assistance when we need their help. If you have a first responder in your life, make sure to go out of your way to thank them today!