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Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11 Remembered

Jason called to wake me up..."Are you okay? Do you know what's going on?"

Sleepy and confused I rubbed my eyes as he told me to turn on the TV. Still in bed, I turned on the TV in time to see - live - the second airplane hit the World Trade Center. "What's happening?" I asked.

He had to get off the phone and I just stared at the TV in shock.

My shift was scheduled to begin at 11 am. Jason called again shortly before nine. While on the phone with him, I was watching a live interview from the Pentagon. There was a loud noise and the TV cameras began shaking.

"The Pentagon has been hit. I have to go. I don't know when I'll be able to talk to you again or when I'll be home. I love you."

I remember that morning clear as day. Instinctively, I put my shoes on as I realized that I needed to get to work. Afterall, I worked in a hospital very close to the Pentagon.

There was a strange feeling looming everywhere as I drove in. I was stuck in traffic on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge -- normally I could look to my right and see vividly the Washington Monument and the Capital Building. But not that day. On that day, the sky was pitch black with smoke. It was as if I was sitting in day and looking into night.

As I approached my hospital, there were security checkpoints everywhere. I showed police officer after police officer my hospital ID badge and eventually made it to work. Until a year earlier I had been an ER nurse. When I arrived, I knew it was only a matter of time before they'd pull me out of the PACU -- we had disaster drills all the time -- I was just waiting for the call. As my first patient rolled out of the OR, I realized he had no idea what was going on. He went to sleep a few hours before -- and was now waking up to find out that the world was a completely different place.

Within an hour, I was back to the ER. Waiting. We were ready...and we waited... Ambulances arrived with all the usual stuff -- heart attacks, strokes, sick kids -- but there was a "makeshift" ER set up in another area of the hospital for those patients...where were the casualties from the Pentagon? An occasional patient showed up with bumps, bruises, and scrapes...but where were all the survivors from the impact? WHERE WERE THEY???

The temporary ER was getting busy so I went over there to help out. I stayed there for the rest of the day. Around 1 pm, our ER Medical Director called from the scene. "We've got the flames under control. We're going in. Please prepare for mass casualties to begin arriving. Stand by."

An hour passed. Around 2 he called again..."Be advised we are not expecting many more patients."

The reality sunk in quickly...and you could see it on the faces of everyone everywhere. We weren't expecting more patients because they were all dead.

Meanwhile there were families showing up looking for lost loved members standing in line for hours to donate blood to the hospital blood bank...donations of food from neighborhood businesses were filling our staff rooms.

In my mind, I screamed..."BUT WE'RE READY!!!"... We were prepared to be there day after day to do whatever was necessary to take care of the people.

The people who didn't come.

At the end of the day, Inova Alexandria Hospital received 23 patients from the Pentagon. Some of them were critically injured. All of them survived.

God Bless America.
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  1. one of those days where you remember it all too vividly, right? I was teaching and I'll never forget the fear in the students eyes, the parents running to pick up their mom's frantic voicemail....and my tears as I watched the videos and the knowledge that we will always be living in the land of the free despite what others may try to do or take away.

  2. Thank you for being "ready". I had just given birth to Bridget 5 weeks prior. I was nursing her while watching the Today Show when they were covering the story...then the second tower was hit on live television...UNBELIEVABLE. It took a few minutes for it to sink in that this was not some sort of horrible accident. God Bless America indeed.

  3. Wow, you were right the thick of it. Brings a whole new perspective to it. I was at my job when it all happened. I really didn't sink in all the way until I got home and turned the TV on and saw it...and then came the tears.

  4. Wow, I couldn't imagine being that close. The images must be so new, even though years have past. I remember sitting on my coffee table... just.watching. Anthony and I just stood there with our mouths open in dis-belief.

    Your right, the world WAS/IS a completely different place, but holding on to the memories such as this video of Tink shows how strong we all are.

  5. Wow, you were right there! Reading your post gave me the shivers. I remember that day CLEARLY. Chris and I were about to take our first few days off since opening our cafe. We walked into our cafe to get some coffee for the road and the staff looked white and they had the radio on (something they NEVER did) and everyone was quiet. When they told us the twin towers had been hit I thought they were joking. We ran home to turn on the TV and saw the second tower collapse in real time and I burst into tears.
    The world I knew wasn't really the same after that..

  6. Oh my, Wendy! I live half a country away and will still never forget all that happened. I can't imagine how that memory must still be so incredibly vivid and heartrending to you, even now! Thank you for being there, for being ready. It's an amazing thing that nurses do!

  7. You were so close. I can't imagine what that must have been like.

    On 9/11 I was pregnant with Madeline, in my third trimester, and had an OB appointment. The doctors' office was always bubbling with activity. Music was always piped into the waiting room. On 9/11, it was eerily quiet. No one spoke. Everyone just listened to the news reports being piped throughout the office building. The events of the day shook me to my core. They haunted me for months. I was scared for my unborn child, wondering what kind of a world I was bringing her into. The world in which she was conceived wasn't the same as the one in which she would be born.

    BTW, Tink's video is really cute. :)

  8. Beautiful post, Wendy. God Bless America!

    And thank you to all the nurses that were ready, even though no one else came. :-(

  9. Wow Wendy! First I started to say that I love to hear first-hand stories of people that were part of 9/11. Then I realized that I actually wish that no one had to go through the events of that day. But I am so grateful to you and all of the nurses and other emergency personnel that were ready. God Bless America!

  10. Thanks for writing about your day on 9/11. It's a good reminder of how many people wanted to do whatever they could to help.

  11. This hits home so hard for me,, this day. Thank you for all you do.


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