I had my first death case last night. I never worked American Citizen Services when I was in Riyadh, so the only way I will get this sort of consular case now is if I'm the after-hours duty officer. I don't know how ACS officers do it full time... it was heart-wrenching to have to discuss with family the transportation of their love one's remains, when three hours before their lives had just collapsed. At one point, one family member just broke down crying on my shoulder. I wanted to cry, too, but the family needed a calm voice more than they needed someone else sobbing.
I'm torn between grieving for this family and being incredibly proud that this is what I do. At the most basic level, our mission is to help American citizens in need. When I got the call at 9.30 last night, I was the only person in this huge, strange city the family knew. I'm so glad that I was able to help them in a small way.