First responders cope after losing two of their own in tragic incident

First responders cope after losing two of their own in tragic incident

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Dozens of first responders met Monday night to debrief about what happened just one day earlier.

Many men and women rushed to the site of a deadly incident at the Surf and Turf Lodge in Bessemer City Sunday afternoon.

A man by the name of Roger Self was charged in connection to driving his vehicle into the restaurant and hitting his own family members with the car. His daughter, Katelyn Self and his daughter-in-law, Amanda Self, were both killed in the incident.

RELATED: 'He deeply loved the daughter he killed.' Man plowed into restaurant, killing family members

Katelyn Self was a deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff's Office and Amanda Self worked as an ER nurse at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia.

Reverend Brad Hall, a chaplain with the Gaston County Firefighter's Association, arranged for several people to meet Monday night to talk about the tragedy. Several of those who came to Monday's meeting were connected to the incident. Some even responded to the site.

"This one was probably one of the worst for us because it was actually family. It was part of us," said Hall about the incident.

The reverend said he also responded to the site Sunday afternoon.

"That's probably one of the worst ones I've been to in a long, long time," said Hall.

He said Monday's meeting was designed to allow fellow first responders the chance to get their emotions off their chests. He said the group is educated about what to expect in the days ahead, stress they may be experiencing and the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

"I think a lot of times the responders need somewhere to turn," said Hall. "We train them on what to do during the call and how to do their job, but sometimes we fail them teaching them what to do after."

Melissa Levitsky, an employee with Gaston Emergency Medical Services (GEMS), said she worked with Amanda Self and was very upset when she learned what had happened.

"I cried of course. I mean this is somebody that we've known that was just an amazing presence in the emergency room and we're all very heartbroken about it," said Levitsky.

Levitsky said that emergencies are always more difficult to deal with when one knows the parties involved in the situation.

"This is not something that you ever train for," Levitsky said.

Levitsky brought her therapy dog, Emma, to Monday night's meeting. She thinks the impromptu gatherings are good for the first responder community.

"It's very beneficial because it gives you a chance to just get those emotions and those feelings out in a safe place amongst friends," explained Levitsky.

Hall said he has organized another meeting for grieving first responders that is set to take place Wednesday.

He encourages any responder who is in need of someone to talk to, to reach out to him or someone else they can vent to.

"Keep your head up, keep your chin up, and if you're feeling stressed or depressed, get help. It's available and it's out there," said Hall.

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