We’re Never The Same Again

by Robert Cubby, Captain (retired)
Jersey City Police Department

Cubby 911This something I hear regularly with first responders that have experienced life changing trauma. With a career full of such events, is it any wonder that sooner or later those events and those traumas take their toll on us? Like water constantly hitting a rock, our rock solid existence that we built so carefully erodes and dissolves, no longer insulating us against the traumas we witness on a daily basis.

For me, like so many others, the 9/11 terrorist attacks still play heavily in my memory and emotions. Having served that day, my world, my existence were changed forever, ripped from me by those horrible events of that day and the scenes we witnessed, unrelenting one right after the other. Impossible tasks faced and impossible requests left unanswered fully. We were only humans trying to do Superman’s job.

Forever, it seemed, lamenting not only the massive loss of humanity, but the massive loss of first responders. Endless funerals, endless tributes, endless searches for those lost and missing never gave us the chance to recover and regroup. The scars were already forming, and it seemed just so out of place to ask for help with your feelings, you nightmares, your life seeming to be spinning out of control.

So what did we do? For the most part we did what we were taught to do, suck it up and move on. Too much had to be done to fall behind the others. They needed all hands. No one could be spared. There will be time later to grieve, to deal with emotions. That time never seemed to come. It was always some other crisis, some other trauma, some other world changing catastrophe that eclipsed our feelings.

So I did what I always did, put those feelings on the back burner, stored away for future consideration that never came. Besides, I look around and I can’t be the only one feeling this way and no one else is asking for help. What would that make me? Best to keep quiet about those things. They may take away my gun and badge and ship me off to the “rubber gun squad”, those not allowed to carry a weapon again for various reasons. I don’t need to have that label put on me!

I continued my career and my feeble attempts at masking the hurt within. But by the nature of our work as first responders, or those that regularly experience traumatic events, there will be times, when we least expect it, all those defenses are no match for the emotions stirred up by a reminder of that trauma. It is called a trigger and those emotions, especially if accompanied by images – imagined or real – are called a flashback.

On a cool September night, on the anniversary of 9/11, I always made my annual pilgrimage to the waterfront in Jersey City. I would go to see the memorial twin beams and say a prayer for all lost that terrible day. As usual, I would meet with other first responders to share the moment. One of the group is a professional photographer who would be taking some photos.

We were talking and he was snapping photos on what seemed a regular session we do yearly. But out of nowhere, a single low hanging cloud passed in front of the twin beams. We were awestruck at how ghostly and spiritual the moment seemed. It brought all of us back to the first 9/11. We freely shared conversation of feelings from that day, long shut away over tooCubby_2 many years.

Luckily, my friend caught the images on film. I often go back to them and share them with friends at work, evoking the same feelings and discussions. I want to share them with you now. I hope that they will, in some way, provide some opportunity to talk about that day. Triggers and flashbacks can be painful, or they can give you the opportunity to share, and hopefully heal. Especially with the help of supportive friends, relatives and professionals.

About the Author: Robert Cubby was born January 4, 1950. He attended Montclair State College (University) earning a BA degree in psychology. Shortly after graduation, Robert was sworn in as a police officer for the Jersey City Police Department. After attending the Police Academy, he was assigned to the patrol division. After seven years of working in two patrol districts, he was transferred to the Emergency Services Bureau where he was an instructor for the Police Academy. After 8 1/2 years, Robert was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the Property Unit. This was followed by assignments back in patrol as a sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. As a lieutenant, Robert was deployed to assist in the efforts during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. As a captain, he was assigned out of title 50% of the time as an acting inspector/city commander. Captain Cubby retired from the Jersey City police Department in 2011 after 38 years, 4 months of service. As the result of his service to the department, he was diagnosed with PTSD and continues to struggle with it on a recurring basis. Robert also appears in the documentary film, Code 9- Officer Needs Assistance.

Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance Documentary Trailer from Dangerous Curves Productions on Vimeo.

Behind the Scenes of Addiction

by Don Prince
Recovery Coach

Don Prince Headshot_ clippedWe never think about the harm and hurt we are causing others when our selfish thinking and actions take over our lives. I know this was true for me, and many other men and women that I talked to or have aided in getting the help that they need and deserve.  Our wives, husbands, children, siblings and friends are all innocent bystanders of our behaviors in one way or another.    

I’ve written a few articles for publications both locally and nationally. Most have been about my personal experience with addiction and my journey to recovery and a new fulfilling and productive life. What I have not talked about up to now is what happens behind the scenes.

During my active addiction, it was obvious to almost everybody who knew me that I had a problem. My denial allowed me to believe I was getting away with my drinking and behaviors because I was smarter than that.  After all, drinking vodka is safe because you can’t smell it on my breath. Really? What the hell was I thinking? Maybe the slurring of words or not remembering conversations from the night before because of blackouts might have been signs everybody else saw that I chose not to.   

The rest of this story isn’t about me or anybody reading this that might be struggling with addiction, or knows somebody who is.  It’s about the wife, and a man she loved and lost due to his inability to see what was happening to him, and his refusal to accept it and get help. Continue reading Behind the Scenes of Addiction

Emotional Preparation for Retirement – Adjusting to Civilian Life for Public Safety Personnel

by Chaplain Jim Burns


Chaplain Jim Burns
Chaplain Jim Burns

Those of us in public safety careers – law enforcement, fire service are usually gung-ho, Type A personalities, self-reliant, confident and sometimes even a little cocky. We love excitement. We feel there is nothing we can’t do; we’re self-important, helpers, fixers, we need to be needed, and we enjoy being the front-line of defense and first responders when something goes terribly wrong in our neighborhoods, our districts and our jurisdictions.

In the academy. we learn to be tough, to be a team player, to follow orders to the letter, to fit into the chain of command, to practice our particular skill sets until they become second-nature. During our years of service, we continue to train to be the best police officer, firefighter, or chaplain that we are capable of being. We learn about critical incident stress and how to manage it. We practice working under extreme stress. We train, train, and train some more. We are among the best of the best at what we do. Continue reading Emotional Preparation for Retirement – Adjusting to Civilian Life for Public Safety Personnel

Hiding in Plain Sight

by Captain Robert Cubby (retired)
Jersey City (NJ) Police Department

Robert Cubby
Robert Cubby

Once again, we hear about another officer killed in the line of duty. We mourn the loss of Police Officer Randolph Holder of the New York City Police Department whose end of watch was October 20, 2015. May he rest in peace.

I have attended too many police funerals in my career. Two of the funerals that I attended, I was personally involved with the case and was there when the officer died. Continue reading Hiding in Plain Sight

How To Survive A Professional Ambush

by Marla Friedman, Psy.D., P.C.

Dr. Marla Friedman
Dr. Marla Friedman

I started my career in mental health in 1979. I had graduated with a shiny fresh degree in psychology, though I had more hours in studio art and art history than in psychology. Unfortunately, my interest in art was limited by my lack of talent. I also noticed that being dead was a big career builder in the art world. That was less appealing. So ultimately I figured I could have a career in psychology, which I loved and keep art as a hobby.

I’ve always had this image that when as I was born, the doctor pulled me out, smacked my butt and said, “it’s a girl, then thumped my head and said, oh, and a psychologist.” Continue reading How To Survive A Professional Ambush


by Aubrey Futrell
Louisiana State Trooper (Retired)

Aubrey Futrell
Aubrey Futrell

Grief is a long and hard process that only time will ease. You will be going about your life when unexpectedly, without warning, something happens that reminds you of the one you’ve lost. You will see someone who looks like them or laughs like them. You hear a song on the radio that reminds you of them or you think of something you need to tell them and as you pick up the phone you realize, they’re gone… Your heart will break all over again, and the flood of tears will come. Continue reading Grief

First Responder Stress and the Family Blame Game

by Veronique Moseley

“it is one of the most confusing, heart wrenching and lonely experiences to watch someone you love riding a rollercoaster of emotional states from intermittent irrational angry outbursts to complete emotional distancing, interspersed with moments of tears, hopelessness and thoughts of self-harm… and still, no one believes that things are really as bad as what you’re saying”

Veronique Moseley_1
Veronique Moseley

This week, for the umpteenth time, I heard from an emergency services worker who sought help for dealing with his stress levels. He was told by someone, by his organizational support staff that his problems are not work related, they are merely relationship problems. As additional motivation to take this advice on board, he was told that PTSD is extremely rare in the services; therefore, he should stop thinking about his personal stresses and focus on what is wrong with his relationship. Continue reading First Responder Stress and the Family Blame Game

"Improving the lives of emergency response professionals"


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