As I head to the office this morning, my first September 11 in NYC in 3 years, like most Americans I reflected on that day 14 years ago. My wife was about 10 weeks pregnant, the Giants played Monday Night Football the prior evening and we had just put in a bid on an apartment the day before.
I was seeing patients when my wife called to tell me the first plane had struck. At first I thought it was a joke, and waited for the punchline. Then I saw reports on a news website. The internet became so congested, we couldn’t get updates, and the office turned a radio to an AM news station for updates.
After a couple of hours, as the City began to organize its response, myself and 2 of my partners were driven across 23rd St in a police car to Chelsea Piers where the medical response area was being established. At each intersection was a National Guard armed vehicle manned by soldiers with machine guns and serious expressions. We walked into an empty catering hall set up like a scene from MASH – rows of operating tables without dividers. The medical lead went through triage procedures, and we waited for the wounded to arrive.
And we continued to wait. No one came – the immediately wounded and rescued were brought directly to hospitals before we were set up. Almost everyone else walked away – or didn’t. We couldn’t reach our families as cell phones were not working. After several hours, we were off duty and I walked home to the Upper East Side as all transportation was shut down. Later, I would find out the numbers of people who didn’t get to go home that night; the patients I lost or who lost spouses, high school classmates and family friends.
Being out of NYC for the past 3 years I always felt guilty not being here. So today, back home again, I recall the day, the response, and the numerous stories similar to mine of those that were here. Remembering that everyone’s experience was so intense that they can’t be compared. And grateful to be in New York City.