The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Treating the burns of stress

Tom Taylor didn't rush to ground zero Sept. 11 — but not because he didn't want to be there with the firefighters. "Part of me wanted to go," he said. "But I chose not to because I didn't want to be traumatized. Then I couldn't have helped now."

Taylor knows how being at the scene of a fatal fire can smolder in the heart. You can be burned by stress — and not even know it.

That happened to him after a Christmas Eve fire in l989. As a volunteer fire investigator, he was called to a home where a mother and three children had died. "The youngest, a 5-year-old girl, was just two feet from the front door," he said. "She was the same age as my son."

Taylor talked about the experience in his sermon that night at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Liberty, N.Y. "I thought I'd worked it out," he said. But then he was hounded by what he later realized were stress reactions. "At the time you think you're going crazy," he said.

He found his way to healing through training in critical-incident stress management, which he took in New York City in 1992 after becoming pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, North Bellmore, Long Island.

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February issue


Embracing diversity