My first response to a first responder: What's wrong with you?
Too busy with other duties, I hadn't yet read about the Washington Navy Yard shootings on Monday when my sister-in-law sent me a link to a story about the shooting rampage that led to 13 deaths, including the gunman.
A photo atop the story showed a U.S. Park Police police officer holding an automatic weapon — one of many law enforcement officers who responded to the scene.
In emergency situations, there are always people like him, running toward the gunfire and chaos, nearly colliding with those trying to flee from the danger. We tend to gloss over these images, looking past them for a photo of the shooter, to see the damage and to learn a motive.
I couldn't look past this picture, though, because it was of my brother, Hamel Morris.
When we were young, I used to abuse him mercilessly. (That's probably the main reason he became a police officer, now that I think about it. Someday he'll be knocking on my door with some sort of retroactive warrant.) We played cops and robbers when we were little.
My knee-jerk reaction to the photo: “What the hell are you doing out there?! Get over here!”
My siblings, in-laws and I traded texts with my brother, some out of outright concern for his safety but mostly to express our familial language of humor. When my sister remarked that he looked fat in the photo, he replied that the gun he was carrying added 20 pounds to his figure.
That was funny — for a second. The more I looked at the photo, the more I asked myself, “What's wrong with him?”
When I presented that question to him, he told me that morning he had completed a training session on how to deal with a shooter. He arrived on the real shooting scene about five to seven minutes after the call went out.
When the photo was taken, he was going to the naval yard gate. When he got there, he was told there was no need for officers inside. He helped to clear the perimeter and make a path for emergency vehicles.
After that, he cleared a nearby parking lot for the horde of media. Then he left because he had a scheduled court hearing for a DUI suspect. All in a day's work.
“Weren't you scared?” I asked.
He thought for a moment, then said: “Not really. … You just go into an area where the past is the past, and you focus on what needs to be done.”
His main concern, he told me, was catching the perpetrator(s). “Your training kind of takes over,” he said. “... I know I might get shot. But I know there are other people being shot.”
“Great,” I said. “Now I'm going to be worried about you.”
“Nah,” he answered. “I have confidence in my ability to do the mission. There's always going to be another active situation.”
That certainly did little to allay my fears, but I've got a new appreciation for my brother and other first responders.
Nafari Vanaski is a Trib Total Media staff writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Fitting in will be Kang’s biggest hurdle
- Shale drilling boom a bust for some Western Pennsylvania towns
- Penguins notebook: Pouliot dazzles in victory over Blue Jackets
- Power play shines in Penguins’ home victory over Blue Jackets
- 1 killed in Lawrence County tractor-trailer crash
- Sales, income taxes increases expected in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget
- ALICE program aims to protect students from active shooter in school
- Highmark lays off nearly 100 workers, mostly in IT, as membership declines
- Steelers not limiting themselves in free agency
- LaBar: Is Brock Lesnar leaving WWE again?
- Duquesne University football player died by suicide