June 12, 2017
Sheehan has heard from first responders and mental health workers that there are more officers, possibly with PTSD, who don't want to come forward because they don't want to be seen as weak or unfit for duty. She says she wishes they would, though.Gerry Realin says he wishes he had never become a police officer.
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."
"I've talked to some of the officers and they're pretty traumatized by what they saw," Sheehan says. "It was horrible, the sights and the smells, and the thing that really haunts them is the cell phones that were in [the victims'] pockets ringing."
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