Damar Hamlin tragedy unifies NFL community


Photo credit: Twitter

NFL teams honor Damar Hamlin with social media profiles using the phrase “Pray for Damar”.

Carter Sims, Managing Editor

It’s Monday, January 2, and millions of football fans are tuned in as Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow drops back in the pocket, surveys the field, and finds wide receiver Tee Higgins on the right side. Higgins picks up the first down and crosses the 50 yard line. The Bengals lead 7-3 late in the first quarter and are firing on all cylinders offensively.
This Monday Night Football matchup between two of the best teams in football is a crucial one for the AFC Playoffs, as the NFL regular season winds down with only two weeks left.
As Higgins gets up from a tackle by Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin, both teams jog to huddle before the next play.
However, Hamlin immediately falls again after standing up.
The Bills training staff jogs out to meet him and give him the proper care, as injuries, while unfortunate, aren’t rare in the NFL. The teams, fans, and broadcast crew wait for Hamlin to pop back up again to resume this vital game for the league. He doesn’t, so ESPN cuts to commercial.
Following the break, the coverage resumes, but Hamlin is still on the field. So is a stretcher. ESPN cuts to commercials again, giving Hamlim privacy as he is tended to.
After the break, Hamlin is still on the field. So is an ambulance.
Members of the Buffalo Bills are in tears. The usually confident, collected Bills quarterback Josh Allen is distraught, covering his face with his hands. The stoic, cool-headed Burrow is wide eyed in disbelief. Both teams have come together at midfield as Hamlin is still being treated by the staff. Commercial break.
Back to the coverage, where viewers find out CPR is being administered to Hamlin. The situation has grown more eerie and intense with every cut away.
Commercial break, return, Hamlin is still on the field. Commercial break, return, Hamlin is still on the field. After over half an hour, Hamlin is loaded into an ambulance and transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
While viewers originally heard the teams would receive a small amount of time to warm up, the clubs headed to the locker room. After a wait for official ruling from the league, the game gets suspended indefinitely.
The public would learn the following day that Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated on the field.
The event was jarring, seeing the stars of each club shaken, a stadium of thousands completely silent, and a man laying lifeless for a period of time on an NFL field.
The night could have been a devastating tragedy. Enter assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington.
Kellington, with the help of the rest of the training staff, revived Hamlin and kept him alive long enough to make it to an ICU unit, where he would slowly gain communication and responsiveness skills again.
Cardiac arrest, a loss of function in the heart, affects over 356,000 per year, with most victims dying within minutes when outside a hospital. However, despite the severity of the condition, only 8% of people know how to give CPR, one of the few efforts that can be made if someone suffers a cardiac arrest.
In the days and weeks following, people from around the nation showed support of the safety, with candlelight vigils, signs around every NFL stadium, and even every NFL team dawning “Love for Damar” shirts in the games following.
Millions of dollars were donated to the Chasing M’s Foundation Community Toy Drive, a GoFundMe Hamlin started as a part of his foundation that provides children with toys, school supplies and camps.
After two weeks in the hospital, Hamlin is able to function on his own and even attended the Bills playoff win against the Miami Dolphins last weekend. They will once again face the Bengals, this time in the divisional round with a spot to the AFC Championship on the line.
Due to the game’s cancellation, the primetime meeting between the teams on January 2 was erased from the record books, like it never happened.
However, the events of that night, the moment the NFL stood still and the gathering of the NFL community and nation as a whole in the weeks that followed, should be remembered for a long, long time.