Written by Jay Bonafede
“They would just start welling up, then take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m okay,’” said Mabel Lam about some of the thousands of police officers from across the country and the world gathering at MIT for Officer Sean Collier’s memorial service Wednesday. “Some of them are taking this really hard,” Lam continued. She was one of dozens of Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers talking with first responders as they made their way to Briggs Field for the memorial service, providing much needed comfort and emotional support.
Red Cross support for the service to honor the MIT police officer killed in the line of duty last week, allegedly by the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, began even before the officers arrived at the campus.
“It was dank and dark at the staging area at 5am,” said volunteer FX Williams. Williams drove an Emergency Response Vehicle in from Connecticut Tuesday night, and was one of several Red Crossers at the Boston Staging Area, serving water, coffee and donuts early the next morning to officers gathering for the procession to MIT for the memorial service. “We’re here to help. This is what we do,” continued Williams, who was on his fourth out-of-state response in his 18 months as a volunteer.
During the service, several ERVs and volunteers from across the country positioned themselves around the perimeter of the service and continued to provide snacks and water to officers and MIT students attending the service.
“As the service let out, they were just lining up,” said volunteer Caryn Fremeth. “Everyone was quite grateful.” By the time they were done, Fremeth and Williams had gone through dozens of cases each of water, Gatorade and snacks, and a similar scene played out at other ERVs around the MIT campus. Fremeth drove in from New Hampshire to help support the memorial service, and says she feels good about the work she did during her first out-of-state response. “It was nice for everyone to be able to see the Red Cross here helping these people.”