Saturday, February 2, 2008

Witnessing Horror at the World Trade Center -- KELLY 165 (2): 261 -- Am J Psychiatry

Witnessing Horror at the World Trade Center -- KELLY 165 (2): 261 -- Am J Psychiatry:

"Witnessing Horror at the World Trade Center

New York, N.Y.

To The Editor: The study reported by Megan A. Perrin, M.P.H., et al., published in the September 2007 issue of the Journal (1), involved a methodologic decision which may have resulted in the loss of some clinically important data and an underestimate of the traumatogenic experiences of firefighters.

The article stated that "witnessing horror," one of the variables studied for its effects on the prevalence of probable posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), "was defined as witnessing any of the following: an airplane hitting the World Trade Center, a building collapsing, people running from a cloud of dust/debris, individuals being injured or killed, or people falling or jumping from the World Trade Center towers" (1, p. 1387). These experiences are surely horrific, but the list includes only events at the time of the collapse.

As noted in the Cohort section, work at the World Trade Center site continued for nearly 9 months after the collapse. During that time, members of the New York City Fire Department performed the bulk of the recovery work and were repeatedly exposed to horrific scenes of decaying and dismembered human remains. In the early days of the recovery effort, firefighters often had to disassemble corpses in order to remove them from the wreckage before they burned. In later months, the remains they found were in states of increasing decomposition. All these conditions contributed to the cumulative traumatic effect of the ongoing World Trade Center experience and may help to explain the greater prevalence of PTSD found among firefighters than among other groups, such as the police.

In my capacity as staff psychiatrist for the New York City Fire Department’s Bureau of Health Services and Counseling Services Unit, I have had occasion to interview and treat hundreds of firefighters traumatized by their experiences at the World Trade Center. While large-scale bereavement and threats to personal safety were surely traumatic for them, it is the horrific experiences of the recovery period in the months after the collapse itself that regularly appear in their nightmares and flashbacks.


Dr. Kelly is a medical officer in the New York City Fire Department.

This letter (doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07091491) was accepted for publication in October 2007.


Perrin MA, DiGrande L, Wheeler K, Thorpe L, Farfel M, Brackbill R: Differences in PTSD prevalence and associated risk factors among World Trade Center disaster rescue and recovery workers. Am J Psychiatry 2007; 164:1385–1394[Abstract/Free Full Text]

Thursday, January 31, 2008

FIRE NEWS - Marc Mullenix passed away


Fire News: Marc Mullenix passed away

photo of Marc MullenixMarc Mullenix of Fairmount Fire Dept near Denver passed away on 1- 28

Marc Mullenix (ICT1 trainee on Rocky Mtn Team) passed away last night.

Last year he was a Type 1 Incident Commander trainee on Kim Martin's Incident Management Team in the Rocky Mountain Geographic Area.

Marc was a veteran of Ground Zero/ 9-11 and an IC IMT2 during Katrina operations.

Previous employers and assignments included:

  • Bureau Land Management Station Forman for the Benton Fire Station, California (1989)
  • Wildland Fire Division Chief for the Boulder Fire Department, Colorado.
  • Fire Management Officer for Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado.
  • Fairmont Fire Protection District, Colorado.
  • Ground Zero New York, New York 9-11-2001
  • Katrina -Texas - IC IMT2

Here is a link to a short article of Marc recounting his work at Ground Zero
Here is a link to a short article of Marc recounting his work at the Snaking fire outside of Denver which appeared on the CNN web site.
Here is a link to a short article on Cal Fire News of Marc discussing the Neola North Fire

Marc Mullenix quote found on the web:
In regards to Ground Zero - "We saw the faces; we heard the stories; we were at the pile when they found a body," he says."In 22 years of fire service, this was by far the worst thing and the best thing ... the most psychologically draining thing I've ever done. Every nerve ending was ripped open like a scab. I'll never forget the smell. The noise was unbearable ... every one of your senses is maxed out. "

Join the discussion of Marcs passing at: Theysaid Forum
As friends and
colleague's share remembrances about this larger than life professional wild land fire fighter's life, the following quotes in regards to Marc are from Theysaid.

Marc was a colleague, mentor, and friend. Words fail to express our loss.
Please say a prayer for our brother, his family, and his friends.
Rest assured, his passion will live on in all of us fortunate to have worked
with him.
Godspeed, Marc, Godspeed."

Marc was an excellent firefighter, leader, teacher, motivator, and friend"

When someone as fine as Marc passes on it's hard to know what to say.
He was a good thinker, good strategist, cared for the troops, knew how
to communicate. He was a LEADER. It's hard to think that he won't be
around doing what he did well. Our loss, fire's loss. My condolences to
his family."

I am deeply saddened to hear of Marc's passing. Marc was an excellent firefighter, leader, teacher, motivator, and friend. The most important thing I learned from Marc was 'always take care of your people'. It was hard not to have fun when around Marc, even when situations got to be a bit rough he had a way of keeping morale up while keeping the troops focused on the task at hand. He was a great guy that will be dearly missed.
My condolences to his family.
Godspeed, Marc."

I met Marc at least twenty years ago in Boulder, CO and wrote a story about this larger-than-life wildland guy. Just talking with him, I could sense that this man was going places in the wildland fire world. And, he sure did! He was known far and wide in that world, thinking out of the box. Doin great things for his wildland fire folks. He reminded me of wildland fire legend, Paul Gleason. Since they knew each other, I should think that they are sittin side by side under a big old pine tree swapping fire stories up yonder. Ya, that's how I picture him and his friend, Paul."

To his wife Shawna, and to his daughter, extended family and vast numbers of friends and colleagues, the sincerest condolences on the passing of one of wildland fire's memorable and excellent personalities. He's home now.

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