Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

9/11 Ten Years Later: Response, Recovery and Remembrance

There are a handful of moments in history in which we all remember where we were and what we were doing. For me, they stretch all the way back to a 3-year-old’s foggy memory of her mom disrupting her daily routine of walking to the local deli when she learned that John F. Kennedy had been shot. We turned around abruptly and went home to turn on the black-and-white TV as tears streamed down my mother’s face. Next came the joyous and triumphant memories of Neil and Buzz walking on the moon. After that: the dreadful news of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger… then the fall of the Berlin Wall. But the most recent memory seared into my brain is Sept. 11, 2001, and the events that changed America forever and cost 2,996 individuals their lives. I recall N.J. hospitals standing ready to assist the New York hospitals in caring for the survivors; they never came in the numbers we had prayed for. I recall my own fear, not knowing where my own husband was for several hours that day. Only later did I find out he was outside the building assisting, but I couldn’t get through to him. He finally made it home the next morning, covered in Ground Zero dust.

It was a horrible time in our nation’s history. We were attacked in New York City, in Washington D.C., and because of the heroism of those passengers on Flight 93, a plane crashed far from our nation’s capital in Shanksville, Pa. It was hard to fathom the loss of life, or the “why’s” of the attack. Politicians took action and a nation mourned as one.

There are so many lingering impacts of that fateful day. Among them: After Sept. 11, 2001, hospitals and other healthcare providers began a new era in the nation’s emergency preparedness efforts. Hospitals, by their very nature, are prepared for the unexpected. Confronting emergencies is part of their core mission of protecting the community’s well-being. But that mission has grown in the wake of Sept. 11 to prepare our healthcare system for any looming hazard – from a terroristic attack to a flu pandemic.

Hospitals across New Jersey and the nation use the Incident Command System, a mobilization strategy that allows healthcare facilities to respond very quickly to a large-scale threat. And they’ve formed key linkages with state and federal homeland security officials, state and local police, the New Jersey and U.S. Departments of Health, public health agencies, public utilities and others. Never before has such a broad array of health and safety entities been so strategically positioned to mobilize and protect the public’s well-being.

This somber anniversary of 9/11/01 is a time to remember and reflect on what we lost. But it’s also a time to realize that we are better prepared today then we were yesterday – and that work continues each and every day. My thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of all of those who lost their lives that day.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 18:47

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