"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?"

"I do."

"State your name for the record…"

I forget most of the rest. I forget a lot of things, apparently. A letter arrived by carrier to my home one day, a subpoena, hand delivered by an officer of the court. A few weeks went by, the day of the deposition arrived and I showed up, as ordered.

"You were first on scene at a fatal motor vehicle accident on Route 95 on December 9, 2007, do you recall the event?"

"Yes, I do." I'll never forget it.

"Can you tell the attorneys exactly what you saw when you arrived on scene at," a shuffling of papers, "1134 hrs.?"

"A van was on its side, broken glass, major damage. We drove past the vehicle and stopped in front of it. When I got out of the rescue I saw a childs safety seat twenty feet away from the vehicle. I saw an infant in the seat, and the infant appeared dead."

"Lieutenant, you state that you drove past the damaged vehicle is that correct?"

"Yes." I remember it vividly.

Glances between the assembled lawyers, and clerks, the stenographer stayed on task. Pens on paper, then silence.


"I approached the seat and found an unresponsive infant. Another rescue arrived on scene and I handed the seat off to them and continued to assess the accident scene."

"Did you initiate any life saving efforts?"


"Can you tell us why?"

"The other rescue arrived on scene within seconds and i needed to size up the scene."


"I looked into the van and saw two more victims. One appeared dead, the other still breathing. By now more help had arrived, a chief officer, an engine company and a special hazards unit."

The deposition continued. I told the story exactly as I remembered it, each detail clear in my mind. The incident happened years ago, but the memories from that day are embedded into my subconscious, and easily pulled to the front of my mind when called upon.

"Any more questions?"


"Thank you, Lieutenant. We have footage from the scene and would appreciate it if you could identify some personnel, we need to get more information before the case begins."

"I'd be glad to."

A TV monitor turned on, and news footage from the incident began. My rescue was there, right behind the wreckage. I never drove past it. I also learned that the child seat was never thrown from the vehicle, though I vividly recall seeing it twenty feet away from the wreckage. Nothing was as I "vividly" remembered it. Nothing. It was as if a reenactment team did a poor job of reconstructing the incident. Actually, it was my own mind that did a poor job of recreating the incident.

I have no idea how many other things that I vividly remember are actually fabrications. The mind is a strange place, bearing witness to things better left unseen must scramble things up more than I thought.

"I wish you had shown me the footage before the questions."

"Thank you for your time, Lieutenant."

And that was the end of the deposition. I doubt if they call me back.



  • Bob Lincoln says:

    Although those calls are imprinted in our consciousness, to be fair, in the 4 years since, you've probably had about 8,000 calls or more.  In contrast, I remember many of mine because during my service, I probably did only about 1,000 rescue and 400 fire calls.

    • Michael Morse says:

      Hi Bob, watching the footage was just so strange, I honestly thought I had every detail etched in my brain (the incident that I was doing the deposition for was similar to the one i wrote about but factually different)

  • hilinda says:

    It's odd how that happens. Or maybe it isn't. We tend to focus on small details, little things that stick in the mind. It's pretty easy to end up with those out of context, and fill back in details that weren't actually there.
    It's really easy to get things out of chronological order, too. So much is going on at once, but when we remember it, our minds try to sort things into a "narrative."
    There are incidents that we've been to that I would swear I recall every detail of, but if I discuss it with other people who were there, the memories don't match up exactly.
    It's an argument for careful paperwork, for sure, but also, I think it strongly suggests that we all be understanding of ourselves and others in stressful situations. The mind does a lot of things to protect you from extreme stress, and this is one of them.
    It is very, very possible to be absolutely sure- and absolutely wrong.

  • The other day I had to go to a case prep session at the DA's office. This is for a homicide case, a very high profile homicide case. I wasn't the only paramedic there, and it was amazing how much we actually did recall about this case.  No video, but plenty of crime scene pictures. Things were pretty much as I remembered them, but there were still some inaccuracies in my recollection.
    This was one of those cases where I thought to myself at the time that I just HAD to be on a movie set because this doesn't happen in real life.
    Only it does and selective memory is probably a defense mechanism for the brain.

  • Bill says:

    I actually found this funny, sorry to say, but it's typical. In many instances witnesses and those involved all see things from totally different perspectives. When compiling the information some, particularly attorneys, want to discredit statements that don't fit in. It doesn't make you wrong to not recall exact truck positioning you defaulted to the way you normally park at scenes; protected. Your initial view of the patients was likely spot on but the extraneous stuff like debris and apparatus positioning really wasn't your focus that day so you likely just have a memory of what it should be.
    You're right, you likely won't get called back and that's ok too but this happens all the time.

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