ORLANDO, Fla. — The sound of a ringing iPhone makes Omar Delgado sweat and freeze in place. His heart pounds. He closes his eyes to fight back the ghastly images that no one should ever have to see.
He hears the marimba-like tone and he is back at Pulse nightclub on June 12 as a police officer pinned down in an hourslong standoff surrounded by dead bodies, their phones ringing again and again with calls that would never be answered.
“I literally felt like I was standing there at the club, my feet hurting, my arm hurting from holding my weapon,” Officer Delgado recalled, thinking of the times just after the slaughter when the phone rang and the panic came back.
It has been more than four months since a security guard, Omar Mateen, gunned down 49 people at the gay club here. Officer Delgado, 44, who works in nearby Eatonville, was on the job briefly over the July 4 weekend but suffered a flashback on duty and has not been on patrol since. He has spent the past few months being treated for nightmares and depression while managing red tape and cuts in his take-home pay because he no longer earns overtime.
There is no way to measure the trauma and grief that victims of horrific mass shootings like the one in Orlando must live with. But while compensation programs can help victims find their way back, it is often much less clear what help is available for the people who are the first to respond, like Officer Delgado.