Revisiting Your Past
I’ve been retired from the Jersey City Police Department for close to seven years now. I live some distance away in Sussex County and, as such, seldom visit the city I served for 38 years. When I do visit, many memories of past incidents or experiences come flooding in, some good and some bad.
As a retiree I have become involved in activities volunteering to help organizations do their thing. I sing with our church choir and have become close friends with my fellow choir members. They’ve heard stories from me about working as a cop in a big city. I try to keep them light, sometimes funny. Occasionally more traumatic situations come up in the news and I have to comment on them from my experience.
Last night, a group of choir members invited me to attend a musical at Jersey City University that was directed by our choir director Marc, who was also a professor at Jersey City University and the music director at the school. It was well done and a lot of fun to sit and watch.
Of course, to get to Jersey City University, we had to travel through streets, neighborhoods and locations where I had incidents and tragedy happen in my life. As much as I tried, seeing those areas had a weird effect on me. I remember the incident clearly, the whole scenario played back in my head as we passed the area. But it was just that, a memory which I shared with my friends as we drove past the area.
There was the Texaco storage tank explosion that rocked Jersey City causing widespread damage. We then passed the Route 1&9 bridge where Shaun and Robbie were killed when their emergency services truck drove off the open draw bridge. Onto Route 440, past the location of my last command before retiring, the Route 440 Complex where we had the City Command offices. Up Culver Avenue to the University. Once at the University, directly across the street and up the hill was the South District where I spent 17 years of my career.
After the show, we started for home. I told our driver to cut down Mallory Avenue to avoid Route 440 traffic. We passed the storage facility where the 1993 World Trade Center terrorists stored massive amounts of explosives, three times as powerful as the truck bomb they exploded February 1993, and past too many other locations bringing back many memories.
From the turnpike I saw the beautiful NYC skyline. It brought back memories of patrolling the waterfront area and taking in that “million dollar view.” I would park my patrol car and just take in the view, spectacular at night all lit up. We passed the Quick Check in Harrison where I’d get my morning coffee and breakfast for the commute home. Past exit 11 on Route 280 where I was almost killed in a car accident on the way home.
It was funny though. In the past, those locations and memories would really flood in and bother me, becoming intrusive thoughts that would bum me out. But no more. Those demons don’t have a hold on me.
I’ve learned to recognize them and let them pass and go away. You see, I was diagnosed with job related PTSD. Those incidents and memories have caused problems in the past. But not anymore.
Oh the memories still pop up. It comes with the territory. They just don’t stay and intrude on my life anymore. At one time they did and it was terrifying at times. You think that you’ll never be “normal” again. I guess I’m as “normal” now as I can hope for. A little changed, much older, and hoping my war stories didn’t bore my friends to death.
Captain Robert Cubby served for 38-year years with the Jersey City (NJ) Police Department, now retired. A PTSD survivor, he has been involved in PTSD issues with the CISM team. A prolific author, Captain Cubby focuses on writing about his experiences and solving police problems. He is a National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) instructor about police matters and a frequent conference speaker.