Knoxville chaplain reflects on 2014 bus crash, helping families cope during tragedy

Nov. 21, 2016: Chaplain Paul Trumpore explains how children, families and first responders begin to process their thoughts and feelings after a tragic event such as a fatal school bus crash.

KNOXVILLE - When tragedy strikes the Knoxville community, it’s chaplain Paul Trumpore’s job to bring comfort.

“I'm not going to make the situation better, my job is to make it less worse,” said Trumpore.

He helps console the grieving.

“You can't unsee what you see, but you still need to process it,” he said.

Almost two years ago, he was there after a Knox County school bus crashed, killing three.

"I'm not sure I'd put it at the worst I'd recall, but in the freshness of my mind, there's nothing that tops it,” said Trumpore.

Now, similar heartbreak has struck in Chattanooga and this chaplain is reflecting on how others will do this tough job once again.

Five children died in the crash, according to Hamilton County Superintendent Kirk Kelly.

Trumpmore said reaching out to family members of those killed is difficult.

RELATED: Superintendent: Four girls and one boy killed in Chattanooga school bus crash



"They are not fun, they are the worst part of the job ever, especially when it’s dealing with a child, you cry on the inside for sure,” said Trumpore.

Chaplains help families get the privacy they need.

"That’s a very sacred time we have with our families, when there is that kind of devastation so we try to them to pull them aside," he said.

They also will be a friend to the young survivors.

"Listen,” said Trumpore. “Give clarity, let them voice their concerns, let them tell you what they saw if they want to.”

RELATED: Community responds to fatal Chattanooga school bus crash

For the responders who work the scene up close, chaplains will bring encouragement for the next day.

“The responders that are there may ask themselves tonight--did I do what I was supposed to do? Could I have done it faster? Our brains do a game of self-doubt self, blame. Reality is, you are helpless. You do what you can," said Trumpore.  

“They are going to have trouble sleeping tonight, they are going to have a different relationship with their kids tomorrow, and they will answer that call differently tomorrow. Its real stuff, real pain. And real tears.”

It’s a tough job for him and others, but they do it because tomorrow is a new day, with new challenges.

“Our goal is to help our responders be changed, but not damaged or broken. We still have a job to do tomorrow and I want them to be able to do it," he said.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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