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1010 WINS 9/11 Series: Helping First Responders Overcome The Horrors Of 9/11

Police officers and other emergency workers are seen at the World Trade Center site - New York, NY - Sep 13, 2001 - Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Police officers and other emergency workers are seen at the World Trade Center site – New York, NY – Sep 13, 2001 – Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images

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NYC Remembers 9/11

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – The terrorist attacks on our country on Sept. 11, 2001, were traumatic to some degree for all New Yorkers and Americans.

1010 WINS reporter Sonia Rincon spoke with a psychologist who treated some of those most severely affected on that day: the firefighters who responded to the burning towers and survived after witnessing unimaginable horrors.

Some of those first responders couldn’t come out of their homes because loud noises, such as motorcycles backfiring or planes, could make them panic. They needed treatment that would let their emotional wounds heal with scars they could live with.

But it wasn’t easy.

1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon with Dr. Steven Friedman (Part 1)

“First responders are generally people who are more action-oriented rather than emotional-oriented. So the culture is not really geared toward sharing and talking,” Dr. Steven Friedman, head of the SUNY Downstate Anxiety Disorder Clinic in Brooklyn, said.

As some of the strongest survivors, many of the firefighters didn’t want to talk about what they saw but some had no choice.

Friedman listened to the firefighters’ stories and guided them as they faced the trauma head on.

Severe trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are like debilitating injuries that require real treatment.

“Being reluctant to go on any elevator because on 9/11 you were trapped on an elevator is not really helpful,” Friedman said. “The only way to overcome it is to face it.”

1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon with Steven Friedman (Part 2)

In some cases, Friedman use a method of exposure to help the firefighters get used to the sensations caused by their fear.

“Sometimes if they’re fortunate they’ll even find meaning in their suffering and kind of grow from it,” Friedman said.

Those with severe cases of trauma can and do adapt with help and support.

“Ten years later I still keep in touch with some of them and what I found is some of them are still sort of sad,” Friedman said. “One man said to me, ‘My life has never completely recovered.'”

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