September of 2001 found me in my 3rd year of medical school and participating in my surgical rotation. The surgical rotation has the reputation of being one of the hardest 8 weeks in medical school – lots of hours and lots of studying. To make the best of it, I chose to spend 4 weeks with the Trauma Surgery team and the other four weeks with the Burn Surgery team.
That fateful Tuesday morning on September 11 was just like any other morning in the surgical ICU. Monitors beeping, chest tubes draining, ventilators blowing and sucking, and TVs glowing in the upper corner of the room.
As a team of surgeons – the attending (boss), several residents, and a handful of eager medical students – we moved from room to room evaluating the patient and determining the next course of action to be taken for each patient that day.
As the morning progressed, the TVs began to report the initial plane crash into the World Trade Center in New York. Of course, at first it just seemed like another weird news story. Then the second plane struck. Now it was obvious something was wrong. However, there was no time to sit and watch the TV for news. There were more patients to be seen. And so we moved on…to the next room and the next TV in the upper corner of the room.
My memories of the series of events that occurred that day are all blurred for me – a collection of TVs in the upper corners of the rooms. The World Trade Center collisions and subsequent collapse. The crash into the Pentagon. The crash into a field in Pennsylvania. All memories are a series of TVs in the upper corners of the rooms – mixed with the smell of a surgical ICU.
I think back to the many thoughts that went through my mind. I was worried about my wife and two very young daughters at home. I was worried about my sister-in-law and her husband who lived in DC. I thought about my many friends who were still in the military and would very likely be called into action. But mostly, I thought of the many, many people who lost their lives that day.
Interesting things about hospitals and working in the medical field – there’s not time to just sit and dwell on events. There was no going home early to be with the family. There was no closing shop for a few days to mourn. Patients were still sick and still needed care – so we did just that. We just kept working. In the end, I think it was good for me to be able to work through the hurt and shock. The country eventually did the same thing – we worked through the hurt and the shock.
Things are different today – some good and some not-so-good. However, we’re still a strong country. And we will never forget the thousands of men and women who lost their lives in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. Never forget.