Greeson: Doctor's reflection on the unthinkable in Orlando

              Carmen Feldman, of Orlando, cries while visiting for the first the scene of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting from a block away Friday, June 17, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Carmen Feldman, of Orlando, cries while visiting for the first the scene of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting from a block away Friday, June 17, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Like most fathers and sons, Will Havron spent Sunday thinking about his dad and his role as a father.

His father, Dr. William S. Havron Jr., who died when Will was in his first year of medical school, was a driving force in his life. He, along with his mentor Dr. Joe Cofer who helped him through the trials of residency, have been personal motivation through his growth.

photo Jay Greeson

Those positive life influences on impressionable young men cannot be overvalued, and Will Havron is quick to acknowledge as much.

Just like the rest of us who spent this weekend thanking whomever we worship for the gift that are children, Havron's kids - he has four now with the recent addition of Hollis - are his joy.

Unlike almost everyone else though, Dr. Havron's thoughts slipped to places Sunday that few can imagine.

Dr. Havron, who grew up on Signal Mountain and graduated from McCallie School in 1995, experienced an emotional roller coaster that Hollywood would have a hard time accepting.

On June 7, Will and his wife Michelle welcomed Hollis into the world. Will took that week off because, as every parent knows, that first week is filled with the unexpected and the unforgettable.

On the flip side, Jeter, the family's 13-year-old Yorkie, had to be put down on Wednesday after a long illness.

"I was wondering how we were going to tell the kids about the dog," Will said Sunday after going to church and a Father's Day lunch at Capital Grill in Orlando. "We thought we'd wait until the weekend and try to figure out how to discuss it with them."

He paused there because, in truth, we all paused for what came next.

Dr. Will Havron is a trauma surgeon at Orlando Regional Medical Center and, moments after giving Hollis a 2 a.m. feeding on June 12, his phone rang. The tragedy that happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando landed in his lap.

The deadliest mass shooting in our country's history was miles down the road and minutes from being part of Havron's responsibility. It's a moment every trauma surgeon trains for, but it's one that can never be simulated, he said.

Bodies everywhere. Blood everywhere. Screams and tears and death everywhere.

In the moment, Havron said, the response, action and poise of the entire trauma team was inspiring. Havron and the staff at Orlando Medical were real-life, in-the-moment, made-for-TV heroes.

"Having some time to process this is a whole lot different than going through it," said Dr. Havron, whose oldest son Sam is about to be a ninth-grader at McCallie. "Going through it, your training kicks in and you don't think about the social implications and how it affects you and your family. All you can think about is how can you help."

But the blood and the death and the pain of that night will be a scar that won't heal for the people in Orlando. Or for Havron.

"Now, looking back at it there's a sense of pride professionally of what we were able to do and the lives we saved, but socially and personally it's overwhelming," he said. "The patients and the families directly impacted by this it hurts your soul. How can someone have this much hate and lash out in such a violent manner?"

It's a question that lingers.

How can someone have this much hate?

It's impossible to answer of course, because almost always the perpetrators of this kind of tragic violence are dead before answering for their hatred.

Like it happened here almost a year ago, or in Columbia, S.C., or fill in the blank.

But for Havron, who was in the middle of a vacation week with his newborn, this was not some faraway city. This was home. This was the land of Mickey and Minnie. And now terrorism had knocked on his city's door, and it was answered with the courage of poet warriors.

"To see the way this has affected the city, and even state and ultimately the nation, is something that makes me proud," he said. "Seeing the way the city - this is the happiest place on Earth where millions of people bring their kids on vacation from the real world - has come together after this has been truly remarkable."

The immediate response was heroic. The support after the event has been unwavering.

The future, though, will be filled with questions and more pain.

Havron knows it.

The ripple effects of grief reach each person's shore with differing force and volume.

"On Sunday, when I came home, the gravity of the situation really hit me," he said, his voice lowered. "I grabbed my wife and kids and starting crying. It hit me then. We were worried about what to tell them about the dog, and then this happens. I don't have words to describe this."

No one does.

Contact Jay Greeson at

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