September 11, 2004


I was sitting at work, taking calls, paging doctors, drinking my first coffee of the morning, and wondering about when breaks would start.

The door opened, and the director of the department came in, flushed and out of breath. "Turn on the TV. There's been an accident in New York."

We turned on the television and watched in horror as moments later the second plane hit.

"We're at war." I remember saying that, and seeing everyone's face turn to me like I was out of my mind. Everyone but the director, who nodded in agreement.

We watched. The cameras were far enough away from the towers on the network we watched that we never saw the many who jumped rather than burn. We only saw the smoke and the flames.

We watched as they broke in and showed within an inserted feed the smoke rising from the Pentagon.

I remember wondering why the civil defense radio had not gone off. All of that Cold War training as a child was oozing to the surface, and the instinct was to hide, to find cover, but the images on the screen were so compelling in their horror that I was powerless to do anything but watch, and cry, and answer phone calls and page doctors and to do so while desparately trying to keep the panic and fear and overwhelming anger out of my voice.

"Thank you for calling St. [blank] Hospital." Oh, no, what's happening?
"And what is the name of the patient?" What happened to the building? Oh, my God, it's gone!
"Thank you, he is in Room [blank], would you like that number?" All of those police! All of those firemen! All of the ambulances in the street! No, this isn't real, this isn't real.
"One moment while I connect you to that room. Thank you." Please, God, no..."

Every few seconds, another call, another person, most of them completely unaware of what was happening only 4 states away in a city, 2 states away in a field, 3 states away in our capital. Take a call, do what was asked of me, release the call, look at the television. Pray for the dying and the dead. Mutter curses under my breath at the unknown party who did this. Cry for mercy for the suffering both within the battle zone and sitting in their homes watching and wondering about their spouses, children, parents in the line of fire.

I remember thinking about Pearl Harbor and the way my parents described that day, decades ago, in another century. I remember thinking about the Maine, for some odd reason, and of that war.

The disembodied voices of the ABC anchors droned on. 40,000 potential victims in the towers. Thousands more on the streets. A leg found on a building a block away. Papers flying like oversized confetti at an macabre and obscene ticker tape parade celebrating a successful act of aggression against us, against our country and our home and our way of life.

We never turned the television off for over a week in the office. We came in, sat quietly, took our calls and paged our doctors and found our patients for the moms and dads and cousins and neighbors who sought them. We kept he panic and terror and tears and anger out of our voices, never letting them affect our work.

The tears have dried. The panic has faded. The terror had been transfigured into purpose.

The anger smoulders just beneath the surface. It has been the hardest to control, but I have no intention of extinguishing its hot, red embers.

Always remember. Never forget. Prepare, be vigilant, be mindful, be decisive, be ready.

Posted by Mamamontezz at September 11, 2004 12:49 PM

Thank you!

I thought this day would get easier to get through as time went on rather than harder. With my own son preparing to report for duty in a few days and being deployed again I find this year even tougher.

You are right about the anger. It is still there just below the surface but so is my sorrow for all those who were lost and for all those who have given their lives since. It is what keeps me going and doing what I do in support of our troops. I am sure it will keep me going for quite a while.


Posted by: Keystone at September 11, 2004 01:48 PM

It was indeed a horrible day. In several towns near where I live, the cars that were parked at the train stations for the morning commute into NYC on 9/11 that were still there the following day told the tale. A friend of mine who lives in a town that was particularly hard hit told me that his church lost 70 parishioners.

It was a very hard day -- one that I shall never forget.

Posted by: Jim - PRS at September 11, 2004 06:45 PM

We can never forget or forgive.
I will never forget the call from my teen aged daughter ,the fear in her voice,as I tried to reassure her even though ,I had a swelling sense of dread .
The when she called back I knew we were at war.
My reassurence seemed kind of thin ...I told her it would be okay and to calm down .
And went into machine mode.I had crews who were escorted off a well known Military base and I went into pissed off mode .
I am still there .
The night before I had an Idyllic Birthday Party with all the good that goes with that.
It was beautiful day here in Tampa,and the president was not far talking to kids.
I will never forget our loss that day.
A lot of people I went to school with in Whycoff and Ridgewood NJ lost family.
We must keep a stiff upper lip The war on terror will last a long time...
Cheers V

Posted by: LC NeilV at September 13, 2004 05:12 PM
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