Reliving the Moment

by Robert Cubby

Trauma has a funny way about it. It sometimes buries itself deep in our subconscious, long forgotten. Then someone does something or says something, and the whole scene unfolds once again, intruding into your peace, causing long forgotten emotions to surface.

As I watched and listened to the Darren Wilson investigation, I felt sorry for him and prayed for a just finding by the grand jury. I felt sorry, empathized and sympathized but somehow something was missing in my reaction. It was bothersome how distant I felt from the incident, and how little what he had to do struck any kind of emotion in me. Somehow, I felt like I was “purposely” distancing myself and that’s not like me.

Robert Cubby
Robert Cubby

Then today, a friend posted an article. It was discussing Darren Wilson’s version of events from his perspective and his reaction to Michael Brown. Ho hum, I thought, another article of the many I read saying the same things over and over. But it was these words that struck me hard and opened up a flood gate of emotions I had been hiding. You see, Darren Wilson said he became terrified when he looked into Michael Brown’s eyes and he was “looking through me.”

If you’ve never been in a life and death struggle, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of someone with that look in his eyes, I simply cannot explain what that looks like, or the terror you feel when you see it. Simply put, as Darren Wilson said, you knew you were going to die and this person, with that look in his eyes, was going to kill you.

To try to make this understandable, here is my story. I approached an individual not thinking what would happen next. He was on his knees. As I approached to render aid, he sprung to his feet hitting me the same way as Darren was hit. He broke my glasses, caused swelling of the right eye, my nose was bleeding from the cut on the bridge from the glasses. I hit him everywhere we were taught to take a person down with my police baton, but nothing happened. No time to go for my weapon, he was pursuing me as I was back peddling and striking. My backup officer arrived and was attacked and knocked unconscious. The perpetrator lost his balance. I went in for a two-handed strike over the back of his head to kill him. That’s hard to hear, but it was me or him now. I missed, and hit the pavement shattering my wooden baton. A trucker nearby threw me a baseball bat, again no time to get to the gun. Again, I went for a fatal blow, but he collapsed on the ground. The battle was over and help had arrived.

At the hospital, they recorded 35 strikes to this guy’s body from me, yet nothing stopped his forward motion or his intent to kill me. Do I know that look? YUP, I just have to close my eyes and see it. I know all too well what Darren went through. Those memories came flooding back with just the mention of the eyes.

For now, I fully understand what Darren Wilson went through. I fear that, as with me, the memories of this horrible experience will stay with him and, at some future time and date, they will rear their ugly head again. I pray that Darren gets the support and therapy he needs when he needs it. That he understands it’s alright to have these feelings and talk about them. I pray that well-meaning people don’t make light of what he’s going through, and that he has someone he trusts to talk to and share his feelings without judgment. Darren Wilson’s criminal trial may be over, but I fear his real trial battling those demons of PTSD has just begun.

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 appeared in the film, Code9 Officer Needs Assistance.

Other articles by Robert Cubby:
A Piece of Cloth
Project Blue Light: Remember How They Lived, Not How They Died
Friday, the Thirteenth
Willie’s Story
911: My Story
My Grief This Day
The First Attack