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Retired responder recalls shock of Dann shooting

Former Glencoe Public Safety Deputy Chief John Fay. 
|Sun-Times Medifile photo

Former Glencoe Public Safety Deputy Chief John Fay. |Sun-Times Media file photo

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Updated: January 21, 2013 2:24PM



GLENCOE — “It just hits you between the eyes.”

The news that children have been shot, again, is hard on anybody who’s been there.

For John Fay, the memory goes rushing to the past, peeling back the never-fully-healed wound of May 20, 1988 when Laurie Dann shot one boy to death and wounded four other children at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka.’

“I was in the station when the tones rang out.

“Jump on the ambulance, a kid’s been shot,” said Fay, retired from the Glencoe Public Safety Department in 2010 as a deputy chief.

“When I got there, they handed me a kid who had been shot three times.”

You never forget it, he said. Not first responders, and especially not parents. Not the survivors. Not him.

“I remember the weight of that child in my arms,” he said. “The crying of the other kids.

“I don’t think, with kids, you ever forget.”

The little girl survived. So did another he worked on.

“I had just been to a class,” he said. “They told us if you throw (a gunshot victim) on the affected side, it will hopefully keep the other side (the other lung) open.

“That’s what we did. It worked.”

In the wake of Friday’s shooting in Connecticut, Fay, who teaches policing for a living now, said he knows some of what’s coming.

“I talk to a lot of officers,” he said. “Anytime something happens, it resurrects a lot of memories.”

Sometimes, the tough days change a person for the better.

A trooper who has seen sudden death on the highways no longer gets upset by getting stuck in traffic, Fay said. He’s a better man.

Other times, when you can’t save the 18-month-old who got wrapped up in a dry-cleaning bag, it’s almost too hard to live with.

Fay has never gotten over that one.

“A lot of rescuers go through a lot of stress,” he said.

“We train to win, and when it doesn’t happen, it’s hard.”

It will be hard, too, at the Sandy Hook School in Connecticut.

“The sense of insecurity that’s instilled in that school, anywhere there’s violent death, is very strong,” Fay said. “Everyone is uneasy, so much more cautious.”

May 20 changed everything not just on the North Shore, but in America.

“Laurie Dann really rocked the United States. It was the first time it breached a school.

“You realize that when you send your loved ones to school, you can’t be sure they’re coming back.”



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