All life is precious: Takeaways from the reality of mass-casualty events

Independent Newsmedia Managing Editor Terrance Thornton. (File photo)

Our feature article this month is one focused on a national issue almost everyone I meet and talk with has an emotional response. And, to say I don’t feel a certain way would be disingenuous.

The numbers are sobering:

As of press time, there have been more mass-shootings than days in calendar year 2019. In all, since the most recent horrific events in Texas, Ohio and California, 62 human beings have lost their lives to a mass-shooting event so far this year.

All life is precious and what struck me working on this month’s feature was the idea law enforcement and medical organizations are preparing for the aftermath now — not the prevention of such acts.

Our first-responder community — our police, fire and medical professionals — have signed up to protect all American lives and given the current state of affairs our local heroes are forced to deal with an impossible scenario.

What I have learned over these past few weeks is during these horrific acts seconds can kill many, which oftentimes leaves our law enforcement and first-responder community powerless in prevention.

The issue is complex, nuanced and not limited to one factor: Guns.

The most recent and local active-shooter drill was held here in Scottsdale with multiple law enforcement agencies and Independent Newsmedia photographer Arianna Grainey shot the event from beginning to end for us.

But this kind of assignment is one I have assigned several times before over these last few years, and I wondered how that might impact our folks.

So, I asked, and this is what she had to say:

Independent Newsmedia Photographer Arianna Grainey was the 2016 non-daily newspaper photographer of the year and her work regularly appears throughout the Valley of the Sun.

•What struck you about the frequency of drawing these photography assignments in recent memory?

After covering only one of these shooting drills, it just seems to show the state of the world that we live in now. The first drill that I covered was at Pinal County Court House, and ended at as the “victims” were transported from the courthouse. The second one was at Scottsdale Bible Church and then the “victims” were transported to 5 valley hospitals. This one was definitely larger scale.

But as we have seen in recent weeks and months, everywhere you go is a potential for a target. When I was photographing an event after covering only of these shooting drills, and for the first time it crossed my mind, because there was such a large crowd. I think it’s good that all the agencies are doing these from police, fire but also the hospitals. Yes, the police and fire are the first responders, but the hospitals are the next line and they need to be prepared.

•Looking at your photos, it struck me odd the smiles on the participants’ faces. What is the typical vibe of the room when these things occur?

I think before there is a bit of excitement of getting their makeup done and participating in one of these events. It is something new and different that people are participating. It is a performance of sorts so maybe those were nervous smiles. I think it is kind hard for people to act completely terrified. But once it’s go time, there is an intensity when the “shooting” starts. The police do take it seriously even if they know what is happening.

•What do you take away from shooting these mock exercises?

The take away from these are that they first responders are ready. You can see it especially in the photo that ran on the cover of Apache Junction, they respond just as if it were a real shooting. The intensity on their faces showed. Even when it doesn’t go to plan, they modify it I think that recent expansions of the training that we have seen are important.

The hospital staff were not notified of the drill until they got the standby all call. And even when they got that standby all call, they didn’t know everything that was coming. For example a couple of officers were “shot” in the drill and other officers were bringing them into the ER through the ambulance bay. It was a sort of organized chaos.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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