Before 9/11, Glen Klein worked with the NYPD’s “Emergency Services Unit” — “The cops that the cops call when they need help,” he says.
But after 9/11, Klein found himself drinking, without a job and a cough that wouldn’t quit. Klein, now 53 and living in Long Island, was assigned to a Flushing unit in September 2001. He was supposed to start work at 4 p.m., but saw the Twin Towers on fire on the television and sped into Manhattan.
He and fellow officers arrived downtown just as the first tower collapsed.
“It was just total chaos,” he remembers. He saw fellow cops coated in white debris, and “a huge cloud of dust.”
He spent days after that — 800 hours total — digging through the rubble, searching for seven rescue worker peers who never surfaced.
Those days haunted him — he started drinking to drown out the memories and retired earlier than he’d planned, after 20 years.
“I wasn’t feeling good, both psychologically and physically,” he said. “I didn’t want to get hurt, and I didn’t want to get anyone else hurt.”
Before 9/11, in his unit, he said, “We deal with death and destruction on a daily basis … We deal with the worst of the worst and it never, ever caused me to have to drink before.”
He tried to start his own business, but couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, drained by nightmares.
Now, Klein is on medication, diagnosed with PTSD, and sleeps better. He can go to dinner and stop after one glass of wine. Like many responders, he has scarring in his lungs and developed asthma.