Sept. 11th, 2001, began as just another regular day in the Emergency
Department. Shortly after the second plane hit the twin towers, we started
receiving calls from Arlington EMS about a possible explosion in Crystal City.
The third call that we received confirmed some sort of explosion at the
Pentagon, and our doctors and nurses in the ED began preparing for the transport
of victims to Virginia Hospital Center for treatment.
Many of the hospital’s physicians closed their offices that day and, along with
many nurses who had the day off, came to the ED to offer their help to care for
the wounded survivors. We had no idea how many people were going to be
transported to our facility, but we were prepared to care for a couple hundred.
With everything that our doctors and nurses had learned from our prior disaster
preparedness training, they never prepared for a specific incident such as this.
While all 46 patients that were brought to our hospital left our facility alive,
one specific patient stuck out in my mind. She was one of the last patients to
be brought to us from the scene. She had broken bones in her wrists and possibly
her ankles, after jumping from a second story window.
I remember talking to her and telling her that I was sorry she had to come to us
on such a bad day — and a day that she probably would never forget. In my
amazement, she responded that the day had been a really good day for her because
she was still alive. She then went on to say that her office in the Pentagon was
in the main area that the plane hit, and that many of the people that she worked
with had been killed. She said she felt very lucky that day.
When everything finally quieted down and we were told that we were not going to
receive any more victims, there was a feeling of relief and disappointment.
Relief, because the process of caring for the injured went better then anyone
could ever have expected. But many of us were downhearted because there were so
many casualties, and we were not ever going to get the chance to help care for