Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2008

Free State grad proud of response to shootings

Firefighter-paramedic worked Illinois scene

February 16, 2008


Rescue workers, including Travis Karr, a Free State High School graduate, center, evacuate a victim of a shooting Thursday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Travis Karr is the son of Jerry Karr, a longtime Lawrence firefighter who retired in 2006.

Rescue workers, including Travis Karr, a Free State High School graduate, center, evacuate a victim of a shooting Thursday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Travis Karr is the son of Jerry Karr, a longtime Lawrence firefighter who retired in 2006.

Travis Karr is headed back to work this morning, and you'll have to forgive him for hoping for a relatively calm day once his shift begins at 7 a.m. sharp.

"I want to go about a normal day again - or whatever is normal, for us," said Karr, who grew up in Lawrence and now works as a firefighter-paramedic in DeKalb, Ill. "I want to get back to the normal stuff."

Thursday afternoon, Karr's work was far from normal.

The Free State High School graduate is a member of the first ambulance crew that entered Cole Hall at Northern Illinois University, which only minutes earlier had been the site of a deadly campus shooting.

"Our department did an excellent job," Karr said Friday from DeKalb, about 50 miles west of Chicago. "We handled the situation the best we could, and I've never been more proud of anything I've ever done, and never been more proud of anybody that I've known, than the guys that I work with."

Karr and his comrades saw the carnage up close: six dead, including the shooter, plus more than a dozen others injured by shots fired by a lone gunman inside Cole Hall.

"I can say that it's surreal - surreal, and you just do what you gotta do," Karr said. "What we all say is, you just kind of go into autopilot, and you fall right back on your training. You do what you do.

"You do the best that you can, you know, for what you can do."

Karr's father, Jerry Karr, knows that his son did all he could do and more.

Jerry Karr spent more than 27 years with the Lawrence Fire Department and its expanded operation, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, before retiring in 2006 as division chief for operations.

His son had been letting him know for years that he wanted to be a firefighter. Early on, it was donning dad's firecoat as an infant. Then, as an early teenager, he observed from a sidewalk while Pops led fire-suppression efforts outside a massive Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop blaze in downtown Lawrence.

Just two years ago, at Dad's retirement ceremony, the two men acknowledged a generational switch: Instead of son watching Dad from "the stands," it would be the other way around.

"As of now, I'm sitting in the stands, and I'm really impressed with what I'm seeing," Jerry Karr said Friday. "He is the real deal. I'm so incredibly proud of him for the job he did."

Karr, now 24, graduated in 2002 from Free State High School, where he played football. He went on to earn certification as an emergency medical technician at Washburn University, then moved to the Chicago area in November 2003, near where his mother, Julie Karr, works as city manager for Evanston, Ill.

Karr soon completed paramedic school, then worked for the Romeoville Fire Department and graduated from the Elgin Fire Academy before joining the DeKalb Fire Department just 10 months ago.

Karr and others on his shift were sent home Thursday after going through "critical stress debriefing." Since then he's heard nothing but support from friends, family - including his dad and stepmother, Liz Karr - and the community, both in DeKalb and elsewhere.

Now, he just wants to get back to work.

"As we were told the other day, it is the best job in the world, but there are crappy days," Karr said. "And (Thursday) was one of 'em, and we did the best we could for what we were given. :

"You know, I don't know how to say it, but ... I just want to go back to normalcy a little bit."


Lindsey Buscher 10 years, 4 months ago

What can do, could do, oh do oh do, a do, what to do could do, did do, do what do, do could what do could do, do do, do do! You just do what you do, do man!

Lindsey Buscher 10 years, 4 months ago

On another note, this is not the first story i've read praising the emergency response and the handling of that incident. had the killer not taken his own life, i'm sure he would have been sub-do-d before doing much more harm. it's good to read about.

Paul R Getto 10 years, 4 months ago

How tragic. We need to learn to read the signals better when people are seriously disturbed. This case was another example. People in pain do terrible things. Another great job by the emergency responders.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years, 4 months ago

But the scary part, Paul, is there was little or not indication that this guy was capable of this kind of violence. In past shootings many people come out and say that the person was crazy, but everyone seemed to like this guy. However none of the articles I've seen so far say anything about what kind of medicine he stopped taking.

Tkarr 10 years, 4 months ago

To the person who decided it was funny to make fun of this article and it's quotes, I hope you realize that it is completely inappropriate and childish. To all others, the NIU and De Kalb community thank you for the support you have shown us in this tragedy.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 10 years, 4 months ago

Congratulations Mr. Karr, you and your fellow firefighters and EMT's did an awesome job, and we are very proud of you. I know that something must be done about these school shootings. Every time I hear of another one, and people being killed for no reason, it just makes me sick. The sheer number of people losing their lives is outrageous. The perpetrators usually kill themselves, after hurting and killing so many. In Kansas, it would help to remove schools, and certain other public places, from the prohibited list for concealed carry for retired officers . There are a lot of retired officers that carry concealed under a nationwide federal law, but they have to abide by state laws as well. That means they cannot help anyone, if it requires being armed, in prohibited places in a state concealed carry law. Read the concealed carry law, see how many places could be changed to allow retired officers to be armed to protect you and your family. Not courthouses, prisons, government buildings. Common sense places that already have their own protection. Then call your state senator and representative, tell them you want retired officers to be exempted from schools and other places where they could protect you and your family. Most retired officers have around 30 years of experience. The Kansas concealed carry law needs to be changed in certain areas, this is one of them. The reason for allowing retired officers to be armed nationwide, was to put thousands of retired, armed, trained, officers on the streets at no cost to taxpayers. It is not working well, because there are so many places where concealed carry is prohibited under the Kansas, and other state laws, which the retired officers must abide by. Please think about this. Thank you, Lynn

Phil Wilke 10 years, 4 months ago

I worked as a firefighter under Capt. Karr in the 1980s. He was one of the two finest men I've ever worked for. Sounds like his son has been taught well.

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