It’s hard to fathom that it’s been 16 years since that awful Tuesday morning, when the world came to a screeching halt. On this day, like the 15 previous ones, we stop to remember those who perished in three acts of terrorism, in NYC, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. We talk of the victims, and of the heroes. The heroes who gave their lives trying to save others, those who lived to tell the tales, and those who have perished since, who were taken by the lingering effects of the toxins that floated through the air for weeks afterward.
There are however, other heroes from that day that get left behind. In New York, they were the ones that, kept the remainder of the city safe, while all was going to hell in a hand basket in lower Manhattan. Since I was in EMS for so many years, I’ll stick with them, though they weren’t the only ones.
New York City is a big place. While that might seem painfully obvious, many people don’t realize that it is more than simply Manhattan. There are four other boroughs that make up the patchwork of the largest city in the U.S. All of it is covered by FDNY-EMS, with help from contracted hospitals that turn out EMS units to fill the voids in the system.
Even in other parts of Manhattan, people were still getting sick. Car accidents still occurred in Queens. Cardiac arrests still happened. People still called 9-1-1, on 9/11 for all the usual things that are called for the other 364 days of the year. And EMS still responded to them. In the midst of an unspeakable nightmare, others took up the duty. My brother Philip, was one of them. This was prior to him being promoted to the rank of Lt., when he was a paramedic in the South Bronx. He had just gotten off of his overnight shift, when he was called back in to his station. He was kept in the Bronx – much to the relief of our family – and was one of those who kept the rest of the city safe. They all deserve our thanks. They are all equally heroes, though if you ask them, they were just doing what needed to be done.
Life eventually returned to normal, though it wasn’t quite the same normal. We continue to bury colleagues all these years later. Others have retired. Many still deal with the nightmares that haunt them to this day. And then there are those that are still out there, helping those in need who call 9-1-1, and hear “What’s your emergency?”