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 ones...community 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.