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Organization offers mental health support for first responders of South Park fire

Badge for a Badge is an organization made up of other first responders and they provide for those on the front lines.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Over a week after the massive Charlotte five-alarm fire, first responders continue to be affected mentally by the situation.

When tragedy happens, while hundreds run to safety, it's not the case for people like Emily Bourque. She runs towards it.  

“It’s hard it’s very very hard," Bourque said. "Being a paramedic I could have never imagined the things I see and I do on a day-to-day basis.” 

She's a paramedic with Union County and she's one of the over 100 first responders who were on the scene at the South Park Fire on May 18. 

"We were just playing the waiting game and that’s the most difficult part," Bourque said. 

Even weeks after, there will be moments that stick with her.

"We had initial contact with the crane operator," Bourque said. "I originally thought we were going to be doing a body retrieval at that point in time.” 

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She saw the hysteria up close, watched the firefighters rescue over a dozen people, and watched two workers not make it out alive. She said it can have lasting effects. 

“I can initially think things are okay, and then things creep up on you. Whether that’s days later, weeks later, months later and you feel that heaviness in your chest," Bourque said.

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Aside from being a paramedic, Bourque is a board member of Badge for a Badge. It's an organization made up of other first responders and they provide for those on the front lines. It's something they've seen a lot of since the day of the fire. 

“We have people who reach out pretty regularly," Bourque said. 

Matthew Bonestell is the Executive Director of Badge for a Badge. He said these conversations are needed now more than ever as mental health continues to be stigmatized. 

“That’s a traumatic event for someone to have to deal with," Bonestell said. "Venting actually helps a lot of people at the end of the day. Giving them options or gets something off their chest. That’s been burning them and if they are afraid to talk to higher-ups” 

"Sometimes it can interfere with your everyday life," Bourque said. 

Bourque said she's had time when she's thought about rethinking her path because of traumatic events on the job. 

“I should be able to move forward and continue to do what I’m doing and talk about the things that I’m going through," Bourque said.

It's something she's found through Badge for a Badge.  










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