Va. firefighter-paramedic’s family speaks out after suicide

Nicole Mittendorff’s sister and husband break their silence on her death and online bullying

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Three weeks after firefighter-paramedic Nicole Mittendorff’s suicide, her husband and sister have come forward to discuss her death and the surrounding allegations of bullying. 

In an interview with WTOP, Steve Mittendorff and Jennifer Chalmers tried to answer why Nicole took her own life, and how they have navigated life without her.

The Fairfax County firefighter and paramedic was found dead following an exhaustive search when she went missing. Her death was ruled a suicide. 

Nicole and Steve Mittendorff.
Nicole and Steve Mittendorff. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

Following her death, a string of harsh posts to an anonymous user site about her and other female members of the department pushed Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers to launch an internal investigation into whether bullying played a role in her death, and if members of the department were engaging in that behavior. Officials announced this week that outside parties will be brought in to oversee that investigation.

When asked about whether or not bullying contributed to Nicole’s suicide, her husband said, “I don’t think we’ll ever know whether or not online bullying had a significant impact on the decision she made. The only person who could answer that is her, and she’s not here anymore.”

Although the two said they discussed the online bullying with Nicole, and, while it may not have played a large role in her death, it was hard to say what did.

Her sister said Nicole’s decision “is a piece in a very large and complicated puzzle in someone who was very complicated and obviously ill, but hid it from everyone.”

“She would rather carry the weight of the world on her shoulders than burden someone else with her issues,” said Mittendorff. “I was constantly working on her to be better at communicating.”

“I think anyone who loses someone to suicide would do the same thing, look back and say ‘God, I wish I had picked up on this,’ or ‘I wish I had asked a different question or done something different to be there,'” Mittendorff said.

“I’m the only one who’s read her note,” said Mittendorff of the note Nicole left in her car. “Her note answers some questions, but it also raises other questions for me.”

Mittendorff said he will keep the note.

“It was very difficult to read, but it was in her handwriting, which was beautiful. It had her name at the end of it. It’s something of hers, and as hard as it is to view it, it will be something I cherish because it was written by her.”

Mittendorff, who works for the state police, said he will return to work soon, but plans to make sure his wife’s name and her contributions to public service will be remembered. 

“We’ve chosen as a family to remain positive, remember her attributes, and really affirm and remind each other that no matter what hole you may think you’re in, what you think you may have done or what you think you can’t crawl out of, you are so loved and so welcomed,” Chalmers said.

They will honor her memory by raising awareness about suicide prevention.

“We’re going to make some positive changes comes out of the loss we’ve suffered and the community has suffered,” Chalmers said. 

Listen to the interview below.

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