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The September 11 Digital Archive

Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Behring Center Smithsonian “September 11:
Bearing Witness to History”

     Story of September 11
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Contributed by: Lisa
Contributor's location on 9/11:
Contributed on: 26 August 2002

How did you witness history on September 11th?

I left for work on Tuesday morning and the thing that struck me most was what an absolutely beautiful day it was. I love New York in the fall. I work at St Vincent's hospital in downtown Manhattan. One of the surgeons called the recovery room from home to tell us that a plane had hit the WTC. He was watching it out his window. We immediately turned on every radio and television that we could find. We couldn't believe our eyes. How did this happen? It's a perfectly clear day outside. This, was not an accident. But, who? Who would do such a thing? I ran to the other side of the building which has a clear view of the trade center. There was the trade center with a huge, gaping hole in the side of it. Our patients were asking us to turn their stretchers around so that they could look out the window (They later would be sorry as they had a clear view of the second plane's impact). It was devastating. Then, over the loud speaker, we heard-Code 3-the external disaster code. No surprise, we had been waiting for the official announcement. As I was walking from one side of the building to the other, the second plane hit. This cannot be happening. We hurried to prepare for the casualties. Set up IVs. Get emergency meds. Sterile sheets, saline, gauze, fluids for the burn patients. Ready the ORs for the traumas. Teams of nurses and physicians braced for the onslaught. I went to look out the window and as I did, I saw Tower 2 disappear. Thousands of lives extinguished before my eyes. I sank to a chair and cried. Quite suddenly, I realized just how many people I knew who would be effected by this and how many may be gone forever. Where is my brother? He's a NYC firefighter. Where is my sister-in-law? She is a NYC police officer, working downtown, at 1 Police Plaza. Oh my God, what about Ed? and Tim? and.....I didn't have time to think anymore. We were getting patients and I had to get to work. It was busy. We didn't eat. It was hard to see all these people. Not only were you handling physical injuries, but also psychological and emotional ones. By the time night rolled around, we were tired but none of us wanted to sleep. We had hoped for so many more patients. The fact that no more patients are arriving is deeply saddening. We kept thinking that someone must be alive down there. Where are all the survivors? By now, I knew that my brother and sister-in-law were okay. They would be working at Ground Zero for months to come. Everyone I was worried about is accounted for. I felt incredibly blessed. I went out for some air on 7th Avenue. Unreal. Cameras lined 7th avenue, military covered the streets. F14s, 16s, Apache helicopters had been flying overhead all day. I feel like I am living in another country. Again, this cannot be happening. I cry somemore. I don't think Ive ever really stopped.

Has your life changed because of September 11, 2001?

Yes. I am more appreciative of the life I have, the friends I have, and my good fortune. I procrastinate much less than I ever did. I am prouder than ever to be a New Yorker. I always knew what was truly important in life, but now it is clearer than ever. Love, laughter, friends, family, compassion, generosity, understanding, respect, joy. If you have even some of these things, you are richer than most. Finally, I will remember to never take for granted the freedom that I enjoy and the people who help protect it.

What do you think should be remembered about September 11th?

The people of New York City. Their compassion, spirit, and strength following September 11th. The rescuers who lost their lives trying to save others. The outpouring of love from around the world that we experienced. The innocent victims-we should celebrate their lives rather than mourn their passing. The way that we stood as a country, united in our sorrow but also in our resolve.

Did you fly an American flag after the events of September 11th?

Yes, I flew a flag. No, my feelings have not changed. I have always been proud, and felt lucky, to have been born in this country. I have always respected this country, and our flag, even when I might not have agreed with some of it's policies. I grew up listening to my Dad sing God Bless America, with his friends, at every large gathering. I knew the words to that song before I could feed myself. I love this country and that will never change.

Cite as: Lisa, Smithsonian Story #435, The September 11 Digital Archive, 26 August 2002, <>.
Archival Information: 552 words, 2858 characters

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