September 11th: The Port Authority Police Department Story
Killeen is uniquely qualified to help cops in distress. Police work is in his blood. His grandfather was a cop, and his father and brother served on the Port Authority Police Department. Killeen himself spent two years on the force, much of that time patrolling LaGuardia Airport. But in 1977 he resigned to pursue a higher calling, becoming a Franciscan friar. He earned degrees in psychology and theology, but eventually he came to feel that working within a single parish was limiting. He yearned to work with cops again, and he knew that they could use his help. So after spending nine years in robes, he decided to combine his interests in counseling and police work. He left the friary and went to work as a stress therapist for the law-enforcement community.
Killeen knows how cops think. He says that he doesn't try to get into their heads because he knows they won't stand for it. "Whatever a client gives me, I just try to make sense of it and give it back to him," he says.
His workload is as heavy as it has ever been. New officers come to him every day showing the symptoms of delayed-onset Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome, all of it because of 9/11. Typically they complain of feeling "burnt out." They experience flashbacks, mood swings, and/or panic attacks. They don't sleep well. They feel isolated and don't want to be bothered with socializing. Some turn to alcohol. Many feel that their futures will be shortened by some catastrophic event, and almost all are overprotective of their children.
According to Killeen, there are many "triggers" that will bring on these symptoms. Road signs and bumper stickers that portray the World Trade Center and contain slogans, like "We Will Never Forget," can suddenly release feelings that have been repressed for years. For the officers who had worked on "the pile" at Ground Zero on rescue and recovery teams, the smell of something burning or decaying can set them off. A clear blue sky or a perfect day, similar to the weather conditions on September 11, 2001, can also be stressors. The number 37 can also be a stressor. The Port Authority Police Department had lost 37 officers on 9/11.
Unfortunately, as important as it is to remember the events of 9/11, the new film World Trade Center, directed by Oliver Stone, may also be a stressor for some. PTSD victims don't even have to see the film to fall prey to its associations. Advertisements for the film on television or in newspapers and magazines can be enough to bring on symptoms.
Still, the officers of the PAPD want their story told, and that's exactly what World Trade Center does.