A Newtown police officer who was a first-responder during the Sandy Hook shooting stopped by Pulse nightclub to what is now a memorial for the 49 victims killed and 53 injured in the shooting on June 12.
Christopher Vanghele, 46, an Operations Commander Lieutenant at the Newtown Police Department in Connecticut, was in town to speak at a police conference that was already planned leading up to the night of the Pulse tragedy. The subject of his talk: The mass shooting to which he responded in 2012.
“When I knew I was flying into Orlando, I knew I wasn’t going to come here and speak without visiting this site, to pay my respects and to talk to fellow officers because I know what they are going through as first responders,” said Vanghele, who placed a Newtown Police patch atop growing piles of flowers.
“Since Sandy Hook, there have been many shootings and it just seems as if it doesn’t stop,” said Vanghele.
Vanghele took spent some time speaking with the officers guarding the site and accepted a patch from a brother in uniform.
From an experience that no one would wish upon another person, Vanghele was able to offer advice to those first responders to the Pulse shooting.
“There are no quick fixes. Definitely get help from experts, there is no shame in that. Rely on your family and friends, and forgive yourself,” said Vanghele.
“Of course, it’s there every single day. Even when you turn on the news for Orlando. They are always going to make references from other events that have happened across the country,” said Vanghele when asked if the event at Sandy Hook still resonates with him. “So it’s almost an everyday issue, especially when they politicize it, whether it’s because it’s of religion, or if it’s gun rights or mental health issues, so it’s in the news every day and you can’t really escape it.”
Vanghele’s advice for Orlando?
“Just lean on each other. I can tell you from my experiences that there was a lot of love, there wasn’t necessarily anger, there wasn’t anyone who was out there looking for blood. Everyone was out there to just be strong with one another. That’s what it has to be; you have to turn to your family and your faith in times like these,” said Vanghele.