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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G Pinzon said...
I was a 2nd year OB/GYN resident at St. Vincents Hospital in 2001. I was working hard, learning alot and enjoying my life - my wedding day was just eleven days away. We took our patient into the operating room that morning for her surgery. It was a routine procedure. It turned out to be anything but a routine day. The team consisted of our attending, two residents, a medical student, a technician, a circulating nurse and our anesthesiologist. We thought we were lucky that morning because the case was scheduled in one of the larger operating rooms in the O.R. suite. Lots of room, lots of light, big windows and a picture perfect morning. Our view: the Twin Towers on a background of clear blue sky. Our patient entered the room. Just before receiving anesthesia, the usual comforting words drifted from our mouths, "Just relax, you are going to be fine, everything will be ok..." With that, the patient drifted into her medically induced sleep and we moved to begin the case. Only twenty minutes into surgery and we were completely engrossed in our work, oblivious to the world outside our window, fully focused on our patient. Our anesthesiologist, taking in the view, alerted the surgeons and staff: smoke was billowing out of the side of one of the towers. We shook off the hypnosis of surgery and turned to take a look. The circulating nurse turned on the radio, "We believe a small aircraft has hit the World Trade Center...." A blaze shot out of the side of the tower. Our student cried out as she remembered her boyfriend planned on going to the towers that day. A nurse threw open the O.R. doors urging us to finish our case as quickly as possible, "We are in disaster mode!" My hands were shaking visibly. We turned to our attending for reassurance and guidance. He was visibly unnerved. We nudged ourselves back to the reality at hand - our patient needed us. The rest of the surgery was a blur. My patient woke up. The surgery was a success. She was ok. But "everything" was not ok; the world would never be the same again.
I want to commend all of the staff of the now defunct St. Vincents Hospital for all that they did and tried to do to help NYC cope and heal during the aftermath of September 11,2001.
September 9, 2011 05:45