Trauma Sponges: Dispatches from the Scarred Heart of Emergency Response by Jeremy Norton

Trauma Sponges

Book Cover: Trauma Sponges
Publisher: 2023

Beyond an adrenaline ride or a chronicle of bravura heroics, this unflinching view of a Minneapolis firefighter reveals the significant toll of emergency response

In this remarkable memoir, Jeremy Norton marshals twenty-two years of professional experience to offer, with compassion and critique, an extraordinary portrayal of emergency responders. Trauma Sponges captures in arresting detail the personal and social toll the job exacts, as well as the unique perspective afforded by sustained direct encounters with the sick, the dying, and the dead.


From his first days as a rookie firefighter and emergency medical technician to his command of a company as a twenty-year veteran, Norton documents the life of an emergency responder in Minneapolis: the harrowing, heartbreaking calls, from helping the sick and hurt, to reassuring the scared and nervous, to attempting desperate measures and providing final words. In the midst of the uncertainty, fear, and loss caused by the Covid pandemic, Norton and his crew responded to the scene of George Floyd’s murder. The social unrest and racial injustice Norton had observed for years exploded on the streets of Minneapolis, and he and his fellow firefighters faced the fires, the injured, and the anguish in the days and months that followed.

Norton brings brutally honest insight and grave social conscience to his account, presenting a rare insider’s perspective on the insidious role of sexism and machismo in his profession, as well as an intimate observer’s view of individuals trapped in dire circumstances and a society ill equipped to confront trauma and death. His thought-provoking, behind-the-scenes depiction of the work of first response and last resort starkly reveals the realities of humanity at its finest and its worst.