This is a repost from 5 years ago on this date. I will continue to post this every year until I feel it is no longer fitting.
Unless you live under a rock, you are undoubtedly aware that today is the
6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As I am sitting here working, I am reminded of how I spent that day.
Like most Americans, I first heard news of the first plane that hit the World Trade Center on the news, and then watched in horror as the second plane hit the other tower and ultimately watched both towers fall. Unlike most Americans, I was unable to watch the events of the day unfold on TV. I had already made the switch to web development and was working in the IT department of the company where I had spent 12 years (at that time) as a paramedic, including 2 as a manager, but I was still certified as a paramedic and frequently worked extra shifts to pick up some extra cash.
One of the things my company was tasked with was setting up a staging area at a local airport. The plan was, as survivors were removed from 'Ground Zero' they would be flown to airports around the area so as not to overwhelm hospitals close to lower Manhattan. It was decided that I would be in charge of setting up and coordinating this staging area. I was sent to the airport at about 11:00AM and started preparing for what could have been hundreds of victims.
At the staging area, we coordinated with over 150 people from approximately 50 different police, fire and EMS agencies. It felt good to be doing something, something we were sure would help. From the airport in central New Jersey, about 40 miles from Ground Zero, we could see the smoke from the towers. We did not have a TV and relied on phone calls from others to get information as the day wore on.
As time passed we would get messages that we would be receiving patients soon, yet none ever came. After 9 hours at the airport, having not treated one person, we were told our services would no longer be needed and we could go home. It became a stark reality to me that anyone who would survive was already out of the towers.
In the days following 9/11 my company sent numerous crews to offer assistance at Ground Zero. I was on one of these crews at Ground Zero. While we were not on the pile of rubble trying to find bodies, we were close enough to see the utter devastation that was lower Manhattan. It is a scene that will never be wiped from my mind, but I am not sure I would ever want to.
My whole career as a paramedic I always said that as long as I could walk, I would continue to do the job, even if it was only part time. After 14 years as a paramedic, I let my certification lapse in December of 2003. The events of 9/11 played a huge part in that decision. It had nothing to do with fear. It had everything to do with the fact that I knew if something similar happened on my watch, I'd be running in to help people, regardless of the danger, and this would not be fair to my family. I also knew I could not change who I was, so the only way to ensure I wouldn't do that would be to remove the possibility of it happening, so I left EMS completely.
To this day, when I think of the towers falling, or seeing Ground Zero up close and personal, I get nauseous, I get physically ill.