As part of the NYPD Highway Patrol 15 years ago, Anthony
Flammia, then 38, was one of the thousands of responders who descended on the World Trade
Center on Sept. 11.
“I saw the horror of people jumping out of the
building,” he said. “The smoke, I remember smelling the smoke and the
In 2007, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD,
emerged when he responded to a house fire.
“I remember pulling up in front of the house on the wrong side of the road,” Flammia said. “From that point on, I don’t remember
what happened. I blacked out.”
Flammia’s police career was over. The PTSD triggered
blackouts where he lost track of time. Often, just smelling smoke caused
He said he couldn’t eat barbecue because the smell
reminded him of 9/11.
Flammia also started to have memory problems.
“My short-term memory is almost gone,” he said. “I can’t even
remember phone numbers. I can’t remember, sometimes, my kid’s birthday or my wife’s birthday”
In a study of 813 first responders, 12.8 percent had cognitive
impairment. Responders like Flammia, with a diagnosis of PTSD with flashbacks,
were three times as likely to have impairment. The average age of the group was
“It is a progressive disease, so what you can expect
is that people that have it now, that have the progressive form, will start to
experience worse and worse outcomes,” said Sean Clouston, a professor at Stony Brook Hospital who led the study.
Flammia told CBS News that he is comfortable sharing his
memories of 9/11 and it has been an important part of his PTSD therapy. He
said that he hopes going public can help convince colleagues who are hurting to
admit they have a problem too, and seek help.