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Shooting leaves emotional mark on first responders

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
July 13, 2003
A group of teary-eyed law enforcement officers sat in their downtown office last week and tried to remember Tuesday morning's shooting.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie, Maj. Ward Calhoun and Chief Deputy Mike Mitchell are tough men. They have to be. But it was obvious that Tuesday's shooting spree left an emotional mark on the three men.
The Lockheed Martin rampage was one of the deadliest workplace shootings in Mississippi history. And crisis experts say that emergency workers who responded first are subject to emotional breakdowns.
The team was in Meridian on Wednesday at the request of the Wesley House Community Center.
While first responders are accustomed to seeing violence and traumatic events, Sasser said, those usually only involve one or two people.
When they respond to events like Tuesday's shooting, he said, it can be too much to handle.
Sollie said his family has helped him get through the emotional week.
Sollie choked back tears as he read a letter his 14-year-old daughter, Caitlin, left under his pillow Wednesday night after she left to go out of town.
The light blue piece of notebook paper read: "Daddy, I just wanted you to know that I love you and I know that you are stressed, but God won't give you anymore than you can handle. But you are a strong person and I wish none of that happened. I'm really sorry and know that this is like a piece of cake for you. Love, Caitlin."
Sollie held the note in his hands and repeatedly widened his eyes, trying to hold back the tears as he read it to Calhoun and Mitchell.
Mitchell said talking about what they saw with each other has also been therapeutic. Mitchell said he remembered entering the building and seeing three people on the plant floor all dead.
Not yet knowing if the shooter was dead, he said, "You're thinking, Is this guy going to kill me?'"
Calhoun said it was the most helpless feeling he's ever had.