by Abe Aboraya (NPR)
7 hours ago
Gerry Realin says he wishes he had never become a police officer.
Self portrait of Gerry Realin. Time on the paddleboard is one way Realin deals with his post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. Gerry Realin (left) and his wife Jessica are working to get first responders workers' compensation benefits in Florida. Image credit: Abe Aboraya
Realin, 37, was part of the hazmat team that responded to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando on June 12, 2016. He spent four hours taking care of the dead inside the club. Now, triggers like a Sharpie marker or a white sheet yank him out of the moment and back to the nightclub, where they used Sharpies to list the victims that night and white sheets to cover them.
He says small things make him disproportionately upset. He gets lost in memories of the shooting, he says — his young son will call him over and over again. Then, he gets angry that he let himself get trapped in thought, and that spirals into depression.
“Then there’s the moments you can’t control,” Realin says. “The images or flashbacks or nightmares you don’t even know about, and your wife tells you the next day you were screaming or twitching all night.”
Realin was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and hasn’t worked since just after the shooting. He worries about his family, he says, “hiding from your kids so that they’re not traumatized by your rage or depression,” which “gives them a sense of insecurity, which isn’t good.”
At least one other police officer has publicly discussed being diagnosed with PTSD after the Pulse shooting, and it’s possible there are more who suffer from it. Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan says there are people who go to war and don’t see what officers saw inside Pulse.
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