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Immaculate Conception at night by Vincent Embser

Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin fights for his life in an experience that shocked local fans, media and reminded us the importance of EMT’s

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The Buffalo Bills posted this on social media with the words, “The thoughts and prayers of all of Bills Mafia are supporting you, Damar.”

By JOHN ANDERSON

There have been horrific injuries during NFL football games over the years, but none as emotional, scary and shocking enough as what took place Monday night.

During the first quarter of the Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals game, Damar Hamlin of the Bills made a tackle, jumped up, but then his body went limp as he collapsed. On national television, fans watched as paramedics performed CPR and players and coaches fought back emotion.

After an ambulance took Hamlin and his family to a local trauma center, the teams got together and decided to go to the locker rooms. Later, they postponed the game. The Bills stayed at the stadium as a team until 12:21 a.m. today and the busses finally left.

The Family of Damar Hamlin released this today:

Buffalo Bills sent this out on Twitter at 1:48 a.m. today:

Local couple in the stands

Ben Cawley of Bolivar is a huge Cincinnati Bengals fan. When the schedule came out in October, he was talking about going to the game. He went with his girlfriend, Tina Loucks, a Buffalo Bills fan.

If you’ve been to games at the stadium in Buffalo as a fan, you know the wifi is jammed up and using social media is almost impossible. Texts come through all at once and phone calls often fail.

That’s what happened to the 65,00 fans in Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.

“We knew something serious was going on here,” Cawley said today. “On top of that, there was not a lot of communication going on. People in the stadium were trying to reach out to people at home to find out what was going on, The internet was down and we couldn’t update social media.”

The view of the game for Ben Cawley and Tina Loucks of Bolivar.

It was a scene and atmosphere like no other.

“It wasn’t even the first injury of the game and it really happened quickly,” Cawley recalled. “Of course, Tina is a Bills fan, I’m a Benglas fan. I’m cheering the completion to Higgins and the energy in the stadium up to that point was electric. It was huge. You could see he had gone down, but it happened so quickly, so we didn’t realize the severity of it, we just thought another Bills player went down.’

“They really don’t replay that in the stadium, so we didn’t get the vantage point. But the longer he was down, the longer they were tending to him — and then the entire Bills team left the sidelines and came over to him —  that’s when we realized something was wrong,” Camwley continued. “Everyone knew something serious was going on here. Of course, the ambulance comes out and a stretcher. Nobody knew what was going on, we just knew the gravity of something serious had happened. The stadium was ‘whisper quiet.’ To go from that must positive, oud energy to this, which you knew wasn’t a normal sports injury.”

Loucks said, “People were texting us that players were crying and it didn’t look good at all, so everyone thought he died.”

Cawley said, “It approached 10 minutes and we were getting these texts, you could see the players were distressed. The Bengals were on their sidelines and all on a knee. It was tough. We knew something was going on but we dodn;t know what was going on. We didn’t know if he died. We just didn’t know. Even after they took him out, which seemed like an eternity. After reading up on it, it was 16 minutes but it seemed like forever. “

Like those watching on television and the announcers, the fans felt the same way about resuming the game.

“You saw people warming up and we all said to each other, ‘There’s no way you play a game now. there’s no way you play a competitive football game.’ Then the coaches met with the officials and the two teams split off and left for the locker rooms,” Cawley said. “When the single announcement came the game was temporarily suspended, we didn’t know what that meant or what was going on. Was it suspended tonight or for another day?”

For the next 45 minutes, fans didn’t know what was happening until the announcement came over the public address system the game was postponed.

Tina Loucks took this photo which confused fans as the stadium with 65,000 fans remained silent.

“People were sending us pictures of coaches on the phone, hugging and shaking hands, we knew it was over,” Loucks said. “What a change. With the lights and sounds and cheering, it was the highest I’ve been and the lowest I’ve been at a game.”

Cawley and Loucks had a two miles walk across the bridge to Kentucky. They did not speak. Even on the drive home today, there was silence.

“That energy got sucked out of the stadium and the rest of the night was somber. It was nothing like leaving a game normally where people are leaving the game with energy. it was gone. It was like a zombie walk,” he said.

Loucks said, “A couple buildings were lit up in orange before the game, they were now lit in blue to support the Bills.”

Loucks gathered her thoughts and posted on Facebook, “Heading home from Cincinnati and still processing the whole experience. I have never had so much fun in a day encountering so many Bengals fans and Bills fans that were all equally awesome. I heard “Who Dey” a thousand times and followed it with “Hey-ayyyyyyy-ayyyyyyyy-ayy” and always had it returned. We found the Bills pre-game lot and partied with both teams fans there and at The Banks For the Bengals pre game party. Even waiting in line for the game talked about fun rivalry’s and everyone was on a high. The stadium was literally LIT and I soon became a minority but everyone was great and I heard “Go Bills” often. We all had a side, a team, a goal …. until Damar Hamlin collapsed. At that time there wasn’t a single person there who cared about their team or their victory. We all just became humans with the same goal. The highest of highs turned to the lowest of lows and after sitting for almost an hour in fear, when they postponed the game, we made the near two mile walk home in silence. We are praying for Hamlin and his family and heading home with faith in knowing that when it matters we are all on the same team.”

From the tunnel and field

Alex Brasky, the sports editor for the Batavia Daily News, was able to get as much information out as he could, focusing on the team at the stadium and then the support at the hospital.

“I stayed in the press box for a while then went down to the tunnel area. We were standing there for a long time, waiting for the Bills to clear the area. They didn’t want us near them at all. Eventually, we were allowed to go that way,” Brasky said. “I walked on the field and took a picture of the empty stadium, then the TV stations went on the field to do their standups.

“I waited another hour for the buses to leave at 12:21 a.m. and then I went to the hospital and talked to people who were there and wrote for about four hours,” he said.

Brasky summed up the atmosphere in the tunnel by the players and coached as “stunned.”

He said, “Everyone was stunned. Fans must have received information from others on their cell phones minutes before the announcement the game was postponed and left. It was so quiet, Everyone was shocked. Even us in the press box, we didn’t know what happened. Then they showed the replay and for someone to make a tackle, get up and collapse … you don’t ever see that.

“No one really knew what to do. Even the most experienced reporters who were around for the Kevin Everett (Bills player who was paralyzed in 2007) situation didn’t know. You saw Dane Jackson go down earlier in the year, but that was different,” Brasky continued. “You are concerned, then you see a thumbs up from the player and you feel better. This time, they gave CPR on the field. You see the body motions of the EMT’s giving him chest compressions and then it reached a fever pitch.”

Brasky said the fans and media members were all the same on this night.

“We were kinda like the fans. We didn’t know. When I got to the hospital, it was very somber. I talked to a Bills fan who was 18 and from Cincinnati and he described it as ‘traumatic’ and ‘heavy.’ People had candles around a sign,” Brasky said. “There were not a lot of people, it was late, it was raining. There were a lot of Bills fans at the game, but it wasn’t one of the ‘takeover’ Bills games.”

Ambulances at games

Former Hornell High School football coach Gene Mastin said he remembers a death in 1977 that changed everything as ambulances and EMT’s became commonplace at all football games, from Pee Wee football to the NFL.

Mastin, who coached at Emporium in Pennsylvania before a successful hall of fame career at Hornell, remembers Mike Dwyer of Olean’s Archbishop Walsh dying at after a hit..

A story in 2013 by Mary Jo Monnin in the Buffalo News detailed the incident.

“Mike Dwyer was a 5-foot-5, 145-pound senior halfback who was fatally injured after he was hit hard, but routinely, by two players from Elk Center (Pa.) Christian High School after receiving a kickoff in a Saturday afternoon game at Olean’s Bradner Stadium,” Monnin wrote. “After the play he walked to the Walsh huddle where he turned to teammate Brion Neary and reportedly said: “I don’t think I can make it.” And he fell to his knees. Dwyer was taken to Olean General Hospital and was immediately transferred to Buffalo’s Meyer Memorial Hospital where he died the following Wednesday.”

Monnin said Mike’s father, Joe Dwyer, an attorney in Olean, still searched for answers and losing a son on a football field.

In the article, Monnin said “Olean Walsh played the remainder of their season with the blessing of Dwyer’s parents who said it’s what their son would have wanted. An autopsy revealed he died of a subdural hemorrhage and cerebral contusion.”

Here is a video of Hamlin hugging his mom before a game. A GoFundMe page for a toy drive Hamlin set up as a senior in college at University of Pittsburgh went from $2,500 to over $4 million in less than 12 hours.

A statement sent by the NFL to the media, including the Wellsville and Hornell Sun, read, “Tonight’s Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game has been postponed after Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin collapsed, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced.

Hamlin received immediate medical attention on the field by team and independent medical staff and local paramedics. He was then transported to a local hospital where he is in critical condition.

Our thoughts are with Damar and the Buffalo Bills. We will provide more information as it becomes available.

The NFL has been in constant communication with the NFL Players Association which is in agreement with postponing the game.”

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