Danny Irons cant forget what happened in 2005. He was the first medic inside 1205 Benning Drive and what he faced was the worst horror movie youve ever seen multiplied by a hundred.
There was blood on the walls, the floor and the furniture. Irons expected to hear the crying and sobbing of children but all he heard was policemen and firefighters squishing through bloody carpet.
Two children were dead, stabbed by a man they called Daddy. Then Clarence Moore killed himself. Three youngsters survived, tributes to the work of Irons and the crew from Station 10.
Irons is a fire investigator now. He still remembers the horror of that day when he followed armed police officers into that small frame house.
Friday was a day to remember. Irons could relate to the racing hearts of first responders at that elementary school in Connecticut. The scale was larger. Twenty children were dead compared to two but the helpless feelings of the lawmen and the EMTs was the same.
"What you see on this job is not meant to be seen," Irons said Tuesday. "I'm just glad I can see these things so others don't have to."
Irons, an 18-year veteran, has grown up in public safety. It is part of who he is. He has answered calls for wrecks with multiple fatalities and calls for shootings and stabbings.
Then on Feb. 23, 2005, he walked into a house where children lived but instead of toys he found little bodies, one wrapped in the arms of the crazed man who killed him.
"The scene was intense because of the children," he said.
That's why Irons commiserates with his peers in Newtown. They have seen death and violence before but nothing involving so many innocent children.
"It will be important for them to remember they didn't cause what happened," he said. "They have to hold on to the idea that they did make it better. They can't be consumed by all of this."
Months after the stabbings, I visited Station 10. Irons, Chris Price, Garrett Gordy, Chad Jones, Bobbie Jones, William Washington and William "Biscuit" Ervin offered an eerie play-by-play of what happened on Benning Drive.
I even travelled to Detroit to learn more about Clarence Moore. I attended the funeral of the two little boys. The medics were enthralled when I described tiny open caskets flanking the coffin of the man who took their lives.
To a man, they deflected the label of hero. Their hero was 7-year-old Shelby, the bloody child that strolled out of the murder scene like she was going out to play. They had a picture of her on a big red Columbus fire truck. She had a fireman's hat on her head and a smile on her face.
For men like Irons, that is payment enough.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.