BY JOHN LIGHT
Around 7 percent of New Yorkers who take their own life do it in a subway-related way. Many lie on the tracks, or jump in front of oncoming trains. The MTA code for it is 12-9. John Light reports that memories of these incidents stay with train operators throughout their careers.
Around seven percent of New Yorkers who take their own life do it in a subway-related way. Many lie on the tracks, or jump in front of oncoming trains. The mta code for it is 12-9. John Light reports that memories of these incidents stay with train operators throughout their careers. JOHN LIGHT, REPORTER
It was early on an August morning, about two years ago, when Jermaine Dennis had his first 12-9. He was driving an A train, approaching the Aqueduct Subway platform, near JFK airport.
As I was coming into that station, um, a lady had jumped right in front of my train. And I applied the emergency breaks on the train. Four cars went over her. I was in a state of disbelief at the time. I couldn’t believe what had occurred. JOHN LIGHT
Dennis stepped from the train. The woman was still alive. He asked some people on the platform to speak with her. JERMAINE DENNIS
She said to leave her alone and let her die in peace …After watching her being taken up from underneath the train and then hearing about her passing in the hospital… it took a toll. JOHN LIGHT
The New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported last month that around 40 New Yorkers kill themselves this way every year. They looked at other methods of suicide as well. More than 400 people hanged themselves, poisened themselves, shot themselves, or jumped from a building – but subway-related suicides were the only method that had an unwilling participant. After a 12-9, subway drivers often take a few months off and seek psychological treatment. Psychologist Howard Rombom runs a practice on Long Island that has treated hundreds of mta workers after 12-9s. HOWARD ROMBOM
We need to understand that these kinds of trauma undermine the patient’s fundamental sense of safety and predictability. We try to help train operators understand that they didn’t really kill anyone themselves, the train did.
Rombom says that in most cases, train operators suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Acute Stress Disorder – both of which have the same symptoms. Train operators also tend to feel isolated after a 12-9 — Rombom tries to help them ovecome that.
One of the things we have our patients do is sort of push themselves into social situations and also explain themselves to their family and friends, so the family and friends don’t perceive it as much as being rejection as much as this is what’s happening to me because of this.
Jermaine Dennis said he too felt isolated. He drifted away from family events, like evening game nights with his wife and six kids. But Dennis also had recurring dreams.
During my sleep she would come in a white gown, the lady who had jumped in front of my train. She would come in a white gown. Especially when there’s lightning, moreover, that’s when I would see her. So that was something I had to cope and get over with the psychologist who helped me.
Rombom says that most mta employees are able to return to work after a few months, and have recovered from post-traumatic stress disorder within a year. On Dennis’s first day back at work, he said he approached stations very, very cautiously – and he still does. It ended up being helpful a year later, when another person laid down on the tracks in front of his train. Dennis stopped in time. John Light, Columbia Radio News.