Several incidents in the last few months have shown the world the danger first responders face and the importance of their responsibility.
One man who came to Western Mass Thursday knows firsthand.
"When there's danger, the first responders are the ones running towards it, that's really their first instinct," said Lt. Christopher Vanghele, of the Newtown, CT, Police Department.
Some of the most powerful images from both the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Boston Marathon bombings are those of the first responders rushing into action.
"They can overcome that fight or flight and they can just go in and do what they need to do to help," he said.
Vanghele knows what it feels like to be the first to arrive on-scene and witness something terrible. He's a Newtown police officer and he was one of the first to get to Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, 2012.
"There's no doubt it's a stressful time period, people are still in mourning," he said.
Vanghele was in Springfield at a victim's rights conference Thursday, relaying his experiences as a first responder on a day no one will forget.
"It's especially rough for us as first responders because we have to go back to work, we have to try to bring some normalcy back into our daily routine," he said.
Vanghele says talking about that day has become almost therapeutic, but there is still far more healing down the road.
"There's still that cloud that hangs over us every single day and I think it's going to take a while for that to dissipate."
But the images of crowds cheering in Watertown and across Boston, and the people who have thanked him and his department in Newtown will help toward recovery.
"I think right now people really appreciate us and there's a lot of love coming towards us and that's a huge step for us to heal is having that community support," he said.
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