Burnsville shooting: Support for first responders

Organizations that support first responders said the killing of two police officers and a firefighter-paramedic in Burnsville has taken a huge toll on the people who wear the uniforms and their families.

"Nearly every law enforcement family in the state is thinking this could have been us, could have been any one of us, any one of our friends," said Bethany Danner, the president of Backing the Blue Line.

When funeral services are confirmed for Burnsville's three fallen first responders, community members will see thousands of blue roses, courtesy of Backing the Blue Line. The nonprofit provides support to officers and their families in good times, such as weddings and graduations, and in bad times, such as the incident this week in Burnsville.

"The law enforcement community's pretty devastated this week," Danner said. "Waking up Sunday morning was pretty difficult for most of us."

She said the thoughts and prayers from the community have been helpful.

"It encourages the officers when they're able to see that the community supports them and that their work isn't in vain and that their service is appreciated," she said.

However, she said people need to continue checking in on first responders in the coming weeks, months, and even years. That idea was echoed by Russ Hanes, the founder and executive director of the Invisible Wounds Project.

"They need to know that they're not alone. They need to know that the community cares about them even after the impact of the tragedy fades away," Hanes said.

Hanes’ nonprofit provides access to therapy services, wellness activities, social connection, and other services to Minnesota’s first responders and military members related to mental health, PTSD, and suicide issues.

On Friday, the organization is hosting an event called First Responders Coffee & Connection for all current and former police, firefighters, EMS, corrections, and 911 dispatchers. At the event, which is from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Eagan Community Center, they will be able to connect in a healthy way with others feeling similar emotions.

Therapist Kay Manahan, who specializes in helping first responders, will be at the event.

"A lot of them are kind of at this place of like, ‘I need to reach out, and I don't know how to, or I don't know where to,’" said Manahan, the owner of AnchorPoint Therapy Services.

She says first responders may feel angry or sad, and processing those emotions is difficult when they have to go back to work the next day. In the meantime, she recommends they limit exposure to social media and news content, as well as properly taking care of themselves: eating a well-balanced diet, getting good sleep, and continuing to do physical activities.

"It's going take a while for us to make sense of this. But naturally, as humans, we want to know why things happen, so they don't happen again," Manahan said.

If you are struggling, please call or text the suicide lifeline at 988. Law enforcement officers can also call the COPLINE, which is run by trained retired law enforcement. That number is 1-800-COPLINE (267-5463).