22 years later

by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Contributing Editor

It’s been 22 years since the 9/11 terror attacks that rocked America’s world.  22 years ago, and I was one of those who escaped this tragedy.  I am one of those people who worked in the Ground Zero area, riding the Path train every day to the World Trade Center from Hoboken, NJ and walking across Zuccotti Park in the early mornings to my office on Wall St.  The night before this attack our staff was called away to attend a meeting in the state capitol, and that’s what saved our lives.   22 years ago, we watched in horror on a large screen as the first responders raced towards the burning World Trade Center, and the impact of that day remains for those of us that survived this brutal attack, and for those of us that continued to work in the aftermath, scared and heartbroken.

In a recent study of approximately 18,000 workers and volunteers at Mount Sinai who climbed into the ruins of the Twin Towers in the hours and days following the attacks, many have begun to develop COPD after a previous asthma diagnosis. COPD is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that can result from smoking and results also form toxic chemicals that we now know were released from the devastation of the collapse of the twin towers, which has also led to other diseases as in cancer for the workers who were breathing in that smoke and dust which lingered in the days weeks and some believe years since the attack on our precious city.

I remember the day the roads to the financial district, the site of the attack, reopened.  It was a sad time as I drove down the West Side Highway and I cried the whole way.  I saw people from all over the country, there in support, some holding signs made from cardboard to let us know that they were there to help in whatever way we needed, some were there to look for their loved ones, while others were onlookers in disbelief.

Search and rescue operations began immediately as we tried to come to some kind of semblance of the enormity of what had taken place.  Sadly, approximately 3,000 people were killed, some 2750 in NY, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 in the Pennsylvania hijacking.  All of the 19 “terrorists” died.  More than 400 police officers and firefighters lost their lives as they rushed to this unbelievable event.

My life is just one story from those of us that didn’t happen to be there, that escaped such a dark fate on this sunny morning.  None of this makes sense to me, 22 years later, and I am not sure it ever will for any of us that are the survivors.  My kids made phone calls, panicked, to find out “where is my mom” that day as they watched from New Jersey in disbelief. My family was frantic……..

Sept. 11, 2001, has changed the world as we know it.  We live in a world of distrust, of mass surveillance, a world of pain and loss.  We live our lives in mournful recognition and we honor all of those who perished and for those still suffering from the aftereffects of this day.  And each year we will honor all to ” Never Forget”.  May God bless us all and keep us safe……..and I will never forget.