Where were you?

Where were you?

I was working the vascular surgery clinic after a night of call at my hospital when one of the secretaries said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. The buzz around the clinic was that this was one of those dinky ultralight planes and my original reaction was merely one of distant interest. Yet I knew something was up when, in between seeing patients, I tried to get on to the CNN website and got a slow-loading plain-looking page. Rumors started circulating about a second plane hitting the second tower, and that's when we all figured out this wasn't an accident. On a television in the patient waiting room, I saw the NYC skyline covered in smoke. During a free moment, I made my way down to the conference room outside the main operating rooms where a large projection television was playing. It was packed with people catching a glimpse of the events in between cases. Yet it was silent; nobody said a word. As the second tower went down, I heard Aaron Brown say, "There are no words..." The image that's etched into my mind is of a man and woman holding hands as they jumped.

In the afternoon, I saw a patient in the clinic with an infected ulcer on his shin. I had to explain to him that though ordinarily we would admit him to debride the ulcer, because of the events of the day, we were only taking emergency admissions as we might be receiving patients from the crash sites, and that we would be sending him home on antibiotics. Of course, he wasn't happy with this news because he was sick and wanted to get better. And the other patients never did come.

Though I always stayed for evening rounds even if I was post-call, I asked the chief resident to go home so that I could give blood. When I showed up, they were turning everyone away because they were overwhelmed with donations.

When I got home that night, the estimate of dead was based on the amount of people ordinarily in the towers during peak hours: 55,000. I remember reading an internet forum where someone said that twice as many people had been killed as were killed in Antietam. Thankfully the crashes happened early in the day and most people got out. The estimates of dead kept being lowered over the next few weeks. There were also rumors that the US military was on Defcon 1 for the first time in history, though those rumors didn't pan out.

I felt a lot of anger that night. I still feel angry today when I watch the retrospectives and hear of the individual stories on TV.

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