by Robert Cubby
The long road that I started with Deborah Ortiz and Code 9 so many years ago continues. After many ups and downs of financial concerns and funding, forming an alliance with Tyler Marino, who would help complete the film, we are now presenting the film at free private screenings at various locations.
As many have done over the past few years, I too viewed the various trailers for Code 9. And as the long arduous process of putting the film together and inserting new scenes and music was ongoing, I waited with excitement and anticipation for the final product, the completed film.
When I was first contacted, then interviewed for the film, all I saw was my little part in this production. I met two other interviewees in New York that day, Frank and Hector, but again only saw their part, their role. Taking those interviews and coupling them with the trailer, I only caught a glimpse of Deborah’s vision for this film. So I waited in anticipation for the film’s completion.
You can imagine my excitement when Deborah Ortiz announced the film was finally complete. Wondering what the future would hold, I waited for more news.
Much to my surprise, Deborah called me and asked if I would mind viewing the finished film and to offer any critique I may have. Mind? Of course not. More than excited, I was honored she trusted me with her “baby.” I remember how she spoke of her dream to bring this film to completion, to try to shed some light on the problem of PTSD in first responders. To be entrusted with her dream was beyond anything I could have imagine.
I was nervous that I might not measure up to the task; that somehow I’d miss something or worse. Drawing a deep breath, I started my task. I had forgotten the interview I gave for the film, but much to my surprise there I was in living color.
Let me first speak about seeing myself, pouring my emotions out in film for the world to see. It is not comfortable. Why? Because that person I saw was in the throes of PTSD, still suffering. That person, who looked like me, wasn’t the person I am today. He was suffering, he was hurting, and he was still battling PTSD. That was embarrassing to see, but necessary for the film. And so, I get it. I understand where I was. And although I never detected change or recovery, I am so much more at peace than I was when I interviewed for that film. Oh, I still hit those bumps in the road, those memories, those triggers and the flashbacks that crop up every so often. But they are less frequent and less overwhelming now than when I interviewed for the film.
So, taking that into consideration and viewing the others who were interviewed, my feedback to Deborah was this. That she successfully caught and filmed police officers suffering from PTSD. She showed, in a very close up and personal way, what each and every one of us went through individually, but also the commonality of the symptoms and the commonality of the reaction we all shared to PTSD.
But more than that, Deborah succeeded in showing situations that every police officer deals with on a daily basis and, somehow, walks away from them to deal with other disasters and unspeakable tragedies. They are never given the opportunity to deal with each incident. Each and every officer depicted in this film dealt with the gradual deterioration alone, with no help, until the PTSD stopped him or her from going on.
My opinion, my feelings about this film? I do not believe that any first responder sitting in that audience, at any of the screenings or the eventual release, will not, somehow say, “Oh my God, that’s me. I never realized.” This film will force the viewer to look inward at their soul and admit, “Maybe I should think about what I’m doing. Maybe I should seek some help. I’m not Superman (my quote from the movie). I don’t wear an S on my chest. I’m a human being. I’m not immune from everything I see or feel.”
The beauty of the film is that it not only exposes the problem, but it offers hope. Both in what the officers did to get help, but also in the workshops offered by Code 9 Project after the film is shown. Our hope, our dream is to bring awareness and change in the way first responders have to deal with PTSD, because the present way of doing things is just not working well.
Peggy Sweeney and the Sweeney Alliance support Deborah Ortiz and the Code 9 Project.