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Old 09-14-2001, 12:07 PM
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Join Date: Oct 1999
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Everything Changed- LONG Narrative (Resurrection of a historic thread.)

I have no idea if this is too long to post, OR if it's just so long it will clog the servers. IN any event, if it's not workable then I hereby state categorically that I INSIST that the Mods lock the thread. GingerOfTheNorth has offered to load it up on her web site if this is the case. If not, I offer this to those wondering what first-hand experiences are going on this week.


The camera meeting I was in that had started at 8:30 am was still going when the first plane hit. We were in the basement of a 150-year-old synagogue in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, on Norfolk Street just off of Houston. When the first plane hit we were told, and continued our meeting, thinking it was a poor errant sightseer who was blown into the Twin Towers. When the second plane hit, we knew that was wrong.

The show was “removed by moderator", a new series produced by removed by moderator for removed by moderator. The director was the director of removed by moderator. When we watched the tape, only a few moments old at that point, of the second plane hitting, the pager was beeping incessantly for the director to call in. No cell service or land lines were working. I ran outside with a few other crew members and we walked up to Houston, and from there saw the huge holes in the side of the South Tower. I went to my car to get my jumpsuit.

The director called a meeting and canceled the show immediately. The cameras were to be returned quickly to the remote truck, and the entire equipment package now belonged to removed by moderator for use on coverage. Anyone willing to work on that coverage was asked to stay.

I walked away from the Steadicam knowing that it would be fairly secure inside the synagogue. The owner lives in the place, and lots of other gear was left in there. I ran for my car and got my jump bag and Oxygen tank bag, and walked west on Houston street. I had bought myself a badge when I passed my EMT and got my certification. It has the state seal of NY on it, and my Dept. Of Health EMT number in large numbers. It was mostly what we call a Buff thing, an item that is more a show of pride in what we do than a practical item of work. It turned out to save me heartache, walking and gained me access and IMMEDIATE recognition faster than almost all the Non-NYC EMS workers I met. It served the purpose very well, and I was glad to have it hooked on the breast pocket of my jumpsuit. At Broadway, I stopped and kept an eye on the ambulances that were speeding down with lights and sirens going. One driver saw me and slowed, rolling down his window. He yelled out to me to ask if I was looking for work, and I said yes. They let me hop on, and I worked with Citywide Ambulances for a few hours. We headed down Broadway, and stopped north of City Hall. In an intersection we were stopped by NYPD because there were victims there. I first worked on an NYPD officer who was sitting on the ground, in the midst of an athsma attack. Many people we saw were coated with a thick layer of grayish flakes, stuck to their hair and faces and clothing. This was the ash and dust kick-up from when the buildings had gone down just a few minutes before.

I got the officer into the bus and then had two women walk up to me. Karen had lacerations to her right upper arm; perhaps a 2 inch long 1 inch deep gash. Her other wounds were superficial. Her eyes were deeply irritated and red and weepy. Her friend Theresa had a scalp hematoma with swelling, adjoining a scalp laceration that was fairly small but bleeding profusely. I tended Theresa first, since the NYPD lady cop was on the bus’s O2 and doing better. I wrapped gauze squares against her scalp to contain the bleed with pressure, and cleaned her other cuts and scrapes. In addition to them, I was also keeping an eye on the woman we had in the stretcher. She was in severe respiratory distress, futilely sucking on an inhaler and diaphoretic. I took turns with the other EMT yelling at her to keep her conscious. Straddling the stretcher and rendering care to the three patients I had at once was something I’d never imagined.

After we dropped them off at St. Vincent’s, we went back for more. We only had two patients this time, but having severe athsma problems. When we got them to the E.R., I was out of oxygen, and the crew I’d jumped on with was being dispatched up town. I got off their bus and thanked them for letting me ride along.

I wanted to find a cascade system to re-fill my O2 tank, and learned then that in NYC, they have filled bottles delivered. They don’t USE a cascade system. I either had to ditch my tank ( which isn’t my property, it belongs to my ambulance corps...), or find some way to re-fill. While I stood near the E.R. entrance to St. Vincent’s, a firefighter walked by. He asked me what was up, and I told him. He said his station used cascading, and he flagged down an NYPD van that was tearing up the street with lights and sirens going. He and I got a very fast ride all the way across town to like 4th ave and 13th st. It was there that I was told no, they had no spares AND no cascade. Now I was back out of it, and had a long walk ahead of me to get back to it.

I made it to the first traffic light. There I saw a large panel truck with it’s back door up. It was filled with people, almost all sitting down. There must have been 25 people crammed into this truck’s back area. I ran up to it, and climbed in. They were all very kind- I was clearly doing EMS work and they had supportive things to say. I was fed Coke and some strawberries, and dropped off at St. Vincent’s by them. They were headed out of town, to the Bronx.

It was there that I got onto a FDNY ambulance. The EMS service in NYC was folded into the Fire Department a few years ago, and so they are the “official” city EMS service. When you call 911, you most likely would see one of their crews. I walked up to one and asked if they needed a hand. In I went, and we did a few more calls down close to the Site, picking up people who were sitting or standing in the streets, either hurt or just having such trouble breathing because of the dense matter in the air. Not only the Jet-A fuel burning, but the dust clouds billowing up made it hard to breathe.

For a while we had other EMT’s and Paramedic’s in the back. I was sitting next to one man, and I asked him how he was doing since he was sitting there very quietly. He said, “ I lost my bus ( ambulance), my partner and my radio” and he gestured towards an empty radio holster. I figured that he meant that he’d lost his crew because he jumped onto another ambulance during calls, and now he’d lost his radio and couldn’t find out where his people were. I asked if that was what he meant, and he said, “ No...I mean, I LOST my bus and my partner”. When the first plane hit, his crew was in the area. Triage area was set up immediately on Vesey Street. That is the street bordering the WTC to the north. There was a line of fire trucks, ambulances and MCI ( Mass Casualty Incident ) vehicles being staged there, when the first tower came down.

He had been sent to run for some supplies, and so was not with his partner in their ambulance, when it was destroyed by the falling tower. He literally lost his bus and his partner. I didn’t know what to say to the man. Saying “ I’m sorry” somehow seemed very inadequate. And yet he needed to keep working. It seemed the be the rule of the day- if you were walking and working, you kept on doing so even if you knew you had lost someone else in the attack.

We wound up being staged at the Chelsea Piers, in long lines. Volunteer crews from all around NY and NJ and Conn were showing up, and were mixed in with the FDNY ambulances. Everyone was showing up and wanted to help. ( This became a problem later on, and as of this writing- 9/14/01- is still a problem at the site. ). I stood with the crew I’d been with for about an hour, and then I started to think about how things were going at that point.

Several times during my time at the sites, I got the same feeling and tried to act according to that feeling. I have to describe this carefully. In the initial hours, all hands were desperately needed and so I was accepted into other people’s work environments, their ambulances- out of pure need. That was great, it was what I assumed would happen. But, by about 2 p.m. on Tuesday, we were all staged there at the Piers and I began to feel as though I was an outsider with the FDNY crew. For one thing, they could be sent out on a regular 911 call at any moment. For another thing, the trips downtown had passed and lacking any work, I was standing with strangers as they talked about their crews, bosses, etc. They were all TOTALLY professional and kind in their attitudes towards me, but I figured that I ought to thank them for having me along and find other work to do before the crew chief had to gently tell me that I had to not go along with them on their next call.

My instincts were right, because when I went to her and shook her hand, and thanked her, she looked VERY relieved that I’d taken the initiative there and saved her the embarrassment. I just felt like it was unprofessional to hang on at that point. I went inside of the Chelsea Piers, which at that point were still just about completely unsecured.

The Piers are a multi-use area. There are film stages, sports areas, an ice hockey rink, etc. “Law & Order” shoots there but luckily was dark this week. Two immense sound stages were empty, wall to wall. Air conditioned and huge, they were the perfect field hospital site. Supplies were already pouring in from the FDNY EMS Supply people, and so I attached myself to the supply guy and he got me going with stuff to set up an Oxygen Therapy station. I learned how to use some gear I’d not seen before, and was in the Basic Life Support room. After an hour or two of that, I realized that I wanted to be on the other side, where a Trauma Operating Room was being staged. I thought that would be more interesting. I’d no idea if EMT’s were needed in there, but I walked over and started helping to set up the tables.

Basically, 50 operating rooms were staged in one huge room. Because there were two very large medical conferences going on in NYC this week, there was an influx of surgeons in the area. More than enough came and volunteered and so they actually had shifts assigned for workers. I hooked up with Alain and Omar, two surgeons. We went scrounging for supplies and set up our table in the far corner from the entrance way. We were next to the supply tables, and that became a slight problem. People would wander over looking for stuff they’d not found yet, and if they saw it on OUR table, they’d reach for it. One of us had to stick around our table- Table 1- just to insure that our hard-stolen and hard-found supplies stayed with US.

Omar was the perfect thief. He said, “ I’m going to just wander around and see what’s out there”. He’d come back 15 minutes later with some 18 gauge needles or a regulator for the O2 tank. I had mine on my tank of course, and for a long time we kept it hidden because I was the ONLY person in the entire room with a regulator for a tank. Plenty of spare O2, no regulators had been delivered yet. Obviously, it made the tanks useless if you couldn’t tap INTO them to get the O2 out. Omar loved finding more stuff. He was about 35, whipcord thin guy with long straight hair. He moved with this precision, I got the feeling that he was a very meticulous surgeon. He did General and Trauma surgery so he said. Alain was a cardiologist and surgeon- apparently on Wednesday he wound up doing a lengthy interview with Peter Jennings.

There was a lack of I.V. poles. Since we were lucky enough to be staging in a movie stage, there were lots of lights that the electrics who worked for Chelsea Piers brought in. I got a real double-take from one of them at one point. This guy set up a 2,000 watt light, and ran electricity for it. It was a large and very harsh light, and so I asked him for Tough Spun- a diffusing material that gets held onto the light with wooden clothespins. I asked for Spun, and 4 clothespins. He just looked at me in total surprise, I was obviously dressed as a medical person. I told him that in my other life I was a cameraman, and he cracked up- but got me what I wanted for the light. Unlike some stations, we had a nice soft even light to work by. Except........that we didn’t get any work at our table. More about that later.

As I said, there was a lack of real I.V. poles. I knew how to set up a line and a bag, and wanted our table to be ready with fluids. Finally I dug up a stand used to mount a movie light. I had no crosspiece yet, but I figured if I could get something, I could rig a good I.V. stand. I found a thin strip of plywood that had been cut, like an inch square by 6 feet. I broke it down to 3 feet long, and took it. I taped it across the top of the stand, while Alain held it there in place for me. He was very amused at what I was doing. Obviously used to a standard O.R., this was coarse in the extreme but would have been acceptable given the circumstances. The image of me making a crucifix out of wood and metal wasn’t lost on either of us, and for a while the mood got very somber. I found some wire hangers and using pliers, made 4 acceptable I.V. bag hooks. Finally we had a decent stand to use. I also took a large strip of cardboard and covered it with white wide surgical tape, and taking a marker , wrote “ Table 1. Finest Care Anywhere”. One older nurse saw it and laughed, most people didn’t get the obvious reference to the film “M*A*S*H”. It was still on that stand, at another table, when I left the piers the next afternoon. I’d wager that it’s still on there now.

Because so many volunteers were pouring in, the FEMA man who basically owned the room had his people take sheets around to pinpoint who each team had as members. They got our names and phone numbers. The first time anyone asked me to write my name down, I also wrote down my NY DOH E.M.T. number. I figured that a number was as good as a name here. We kept setting up as best as we could. Later on in the evening, cases upon cases of electronic Cardiac Monitoring/Bp/pulse/Pulse Oxygen level meters arrived. We hooked one up and I mounted it on our I.V.pole. It was announced around 6:00pm that we’d be relieved at 9 by an overnight shift.

Now, the only thing I regret is not buying a disposable camera or two, early on. Being that close to ALL of this was a perspective that most people could not have, and in fact were not permitted to have ( and still are not, as of today). I wish I’d have taken a few photos of that Trauma O.R. It was a sight to see. At full staffing, which only happened that first afternoon into evening, there were roughly 4 people per table, so 200 surgeons, nurses , anaesthesiologists and EMT’s at each table. Not each table had an EMT, but my surgeon’s were stuck with me. I was to do the running, and if we lost a guy to another table then Omar, the main surgeon, told me he’d have me doing light work by his side. Never came to pass, but would have been fascinating to get to do.

When it got close to 9 p.m. they announced that cots had been set up. I’d already stashed away two blankets under our table so I’d have something to sleep in. Alain told me I should go home with him. A very nice gesture for a total stranger. We were relieved by another group at our table, and Alain and our Austrian anaesthesiologist left the building after signing out. By this time, things had changed. The perimeters were locked down with barricades and an NYPD officer. There were sign-in/out sheets broken down by certification. ( Omar thought ahead, he actually xeroxed his surgical license and brought copies with him). We all signed out, and left. We flagged down a police car, and got them to take us up to the Hilton on 6th avenue. That was where the anaesthesia guy was sleeping, he was in town for a conference too. From there Alain and I walked up to Central Park and across to his apartment building. His wife Mindy and his 6 year old daughter were both up at 10:00 when we got there. She made us some dinner, and they made me feel very welcomed in their home. I made sure to surreptitious copy down their last name and address off of a piece of mail, so I could both return the fresh t-shirt he gave me for the next day, and send them a gift.

I only got about 2 ½ hours of sleep. After such an agitating day, I couldn’t fall asleep well and kept waking up. It might have been because I was asleep in a 6 year old kid’s bed with many Beanie Babies around, but I tend to think it was the day’s events. We were up at 5, and out by 5:40. We got our man at the Hilton, and had the taxi take us right down to the piers. We got stopped at the edge of the Piers complex by a Special Forces Ranger. I showed him my badge, and he waved us through. Once again, it came in handy.

They said they’d had about 200 patients through during the night, ALL of whom were Fire fighters and Police and EMS workers of various ilks. No survivors were coming out at all. The few that were found that first day were, of course, taken to St. Vincent’s because it’s a Level 1 Trauma Center. Almost nobody was speaking out the obvious- we were staffed and prepped for a huge influx of survivors and by the next morning, we knew we weren’t going to see any because virtually all of them were dead.

I stayed with my team for a few hours, and helped out with the supply table people next door to us. Doing that is what got me down to the Hot Zone ultimately. At about 9am, a woman was walking around with a Fire Department turnout coat on. No helmet, and no turnout gear UNDER the coat. Still she seemed to know the stuff she wanted and so we helped her out. She asked if we had a bag or backpack she could use because she “ had to go back down into the Hot Zone, and wanted her hands free”.

I figured that she was going to see more difficult action than I was, and so I took my oxygen tank out of it’s long padded bag and gave the bag to her. I wrote my name on a scrap of cardboard and shoved it into the bag in the hopes I’d get it back. I doubt I will, considering what happened.

She asked if we wanted to go downtown too, and of course Omar and I jumped at that chance. I took out all of the Basic Life Support supplies I carry in my jump bag, and Omar and I loaded it up with saline solution, bandages, I.V. kits and other stuff he wanted to have nearby. This woman, The Liar, gathered quite the little crew of people together. This felt a bit like Freelancing to me, but I was game as long as we were permitted to go and coordinators had a place for us. As it turned out , neither was the case. She got us all outside and onto a city bus- many had been commandeered. We were then taken OFF that bus, because it was needed for something else. We stood around, waiting and looking at her for direction. She was the one who was posing herself as being in charge and she did an admirable job of acting the part.

She got us down to the southern edge of the Piers and told a Coordinator that we were going down to the Hot Zone and needed transport. He asked by whose orders ( a great question to ask....). She said, “ I was there yesterday with FEMA, and have Search and Rescue (S&R) experts with me”. I knew that was a lie, we were all medical. The man looked dubious, but tried to get us all into an ambulance. We all got in. THEN, some other coordinator opened up the ambulance doors before we left, and asked who we were and who asked for us down there. She tried to run the same story- by this time, I was really becoming suspicious. Then, she pointed to me as she spoke to this new guy and said, “ this guys’s an S&R expert, we’re all going down there”. That’s when I had enough, I took my bag and walked out the back of the ambulance with Omar. Everyone else piled out, and we walked back towards the Pier. Clearly, this wasn’t a sanctioned group. The Liar was furious, and said she wanted us to wait. No doing.

I got back inside, really angry at the stunt this stranger had pulled. Whoever she was, she was using the general chaos of the situation to try to gain access down into the Hot Zone and get close to Ground Zero. It was awful. Then I realized that she STILL had MY O2 bag. I walked outside, and found her SURROUNDED by new people, including one or two Army personnel. She was on a cel phone, looking very busy and talking quietly. One man asked if she was cleared to take people in, and she just threw him an exasperated look and said, “ You go ask FEMA !!”. Clearly she’d realized that if she used FEMA’s name, most people would blink and leave her alone. I waited till she was off of her cel phone, and walked right up to her, and said, “ who are you?”. She said, “ I’m Diane”, and gave me this huge smile. I repeated my question, and she knew damned well what I was doing. I said, Who ARE you????? She asked me what I meant, and I told her I wanted to know if she was FDNY or not- hell, she was wearing SOMEBODY’S turnout coat. She very quietly said no, she wasn’t FDNY.. I then said, “ then who are you and whose coat is this?? “. She said defensively, “ I”m an EMT”. I asked her where and she answered California. I about lost it.

Omar wasn’t there, but when we got off the bus, he opined that she was a reporter and not medical at all. I had two choices, I could challenge her right there on the sidewalk and demand to see her Department of Health ID card, or walk away. I was so angry at her charade that I almost did it, but I figured that I’m not in the law enforcement business and so I left. I also figured that in the greater scheme of things, if she was caught out while down there in the Hot Zone, the supplies that she’d been lugging around in MY O2 bag would ultimately be taken by someone else who would actually be grateful to have them in their hands. So, I let the bag go. ( Sorry, Lisa. At least the tank and regulator that Monroe EMS gave to me went to a bona fide Medical Doctor....). I just walked away from her. It wasn’t my place to have that fight with someone, although if she was indeed a reporter and not just a VERY hopped up and eager EMT, she’d wind up arrested at some point for what she was doing.

I went back inside and stayed at my station for a while. At some point, around noon, a coordinator got a group of Surgeons , Nurses and EMT’s together and asked if we wanted to go down to the Zone. Unlike Diane’s charade, this was for real. They needed Medical teams down there, and at South Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry terminal had been commandeered when this first happened, for ambulance drop-offs and Triage. ( Once I got to the Ferry, I learned that the first few victims were actually taken BY Ferry over to Staten Island to hospitals ). Our group was taken by bus into the Warm Zone, and let off there. We were walked down the West Side Highway, and issued respirators. Not just the paper dust masks, but proper OSHA rubber masks with one-way inhale valves. We kept walking, and I could taste the smoke through the filter.

A row of cars drove by us, each with one dog inside of it and no other person besides the driver. It must have been a contingent of the corpse dogs being brought in. Very chilling to look at. A few minutes later, we got to the corner of Vesey and West Side Highway. A fire truck drove by us. It had obviously been very close to the blast. The front window was GONE, all the windows were gone and the truck and all inside areas were thickly coated with the grayish white dust and muck that had become the normal landscape. The roof had dust flying off as it sped by. It was fully crewed- it seemed to me that the crew needed to use ever bit of equipment, and since it must have been in working order aside from the damaged windows, they were still riding it.

As we were all walking, the lady leading us remarked, “ I sure hope there’s no Press in with this group, hiding”. Those of us who heard her remarked on the folly of such an idea. I saw a man at the back of our group, with a camera, snapping away. He had a respirator on, but no I.D. and no supplies that indicated what or who he was. I walked back up to the lady leading us, and said, “You mean a member of the Press like that guy??”. Now, I’d have confronted him myself I was so pissed off that someone would scam their way in like that, and TAKE a respirator that was needed by a worker, but I thought that knowing my luck, I’d ask who he was and find myself escorted out of the area because I’d given an FBI photographer, or an ATF photographer a hard time. Better to let the coordinator taking us in ask that question. She looked at the guy who was stopped, and snapping away.

Now, this woman was about 5 feet tall if that, and built like a barrel. She walked over to the nearest Special Forces Ranger, and grabbed the shoulder of his uniform. It was so deafeningly loud in the street that calling out to him would have been largely a waste of time. She tugged instead, and got the response she wanted. He turned FAST and looked alarmed. She yelled, “ See that guy with the camera??? He’s not with us, and doesn’t belong here. Can you deal with that”. The Ranger didn’t even answer, he just gestured to a partner and they both walked up to the man, and took the camera out of his hands and hurled it into the air. They then grabbed him under his arms, and lifted him off the ground and simply walked him away, and out of the Hot Zone. I’ve no idea if he was arrested or not.

There were a lot of volunteers walking around, even in the Hot Zone. While I doubted the wisdom of having untrained people in there, all they were doing was dispensing endless cases of water bottles and donuts and sandwiches and fruit. The only reason I say this is because of the collapses. Firefighters have a very efficient system of accounting for each other, they use number tags and a central gathering point. The people walking around were unaccounted for. If a building or piece of immense- and I do mean IMMENSE- masonry or metal collapsed and buried or killed them, nobody would know they were there or who they were. I just wish that part of it was better organized, especially by Day 2.

We got to the block that borders the WTC and across the street, the World Financial Center ( which, as of this writing on 9-14-01, has cracks in it that may cause it to be demolished soon ). We stood around, awaiting escort to an area where we could set up and treat either survivors or rescue workers who were injured. There were many such injuries and still are. It’s raining this morning, first rainfall since the attack and I’ve no doubt but that there will be MANY more injuries today and tomorrow as a result. The thick layer of grayish-white dust from the explosions and collapse covers every surface. It was this blizzard of dust. I’ve no doubt but that as Omar and I made our way south, walking down the street, that thick layer covered body parts as well.

We milled around, and found ourselves not well directed and yet RIGHT THERE at the Ground Zero site. Omar thought that it was ludicrous, and wanted to go to South Ferry right then. I agreed, and we walked away from the group and headed through the World Financial Center building, and out the south side of it. We walked a block south, then headed back over to the West Side highway, and stood looking at the wreckage.

There were drifts of papers everywhere. Computer disks. File folders. I saw many that were charred all along their edges, looking like they’d been in a thick pile that had burned just around the edge. I almost took a sheet of burned paper with me, but for some reason it felt like that was an awful thing to do, no less think about. I know that in a few days or a week, that paper will be shoveled and picked up with backhoes and dumped. But at that time, walking through, it seemed somehow really disrespectful to take a trophy of having been there that was burned. So, I left it all alone and just walked through it.

It was overwhelming. The images on t.v. give an aerial view that is daunting, but to stand there gazing upwards at all of that twisted metal was awful. Every few minutes, as we walked, we’d hear an immense loud shattering as glass sheets from the remaining 5 floors of one of the towers fell out of their frames, and fell and shattered on the ground- and on the rescue workers below.

On the afternoon of the 13th, that last 5 floors collapsed, trapping firefighters and S&R people. But it was still standing as we walked by it. We got to the Battery and found rows of Army trucks and Special Forces Rangers milling around. I hate being surrounded by that many rifles. They all gave us a wide berth, clearly the gray mud on our shoes and legs showed that we had come through and out of the Hot Zone and were both medical personnel. They also figured- correctly- that we’d never have gotten this far if we weren’t’ supposed to have. This is the other reason that I didn’t cause a huge scene with that woman Diane who got my O2 tank bag. Whatever her motivation, I did realize that she’d never make it into the Hot Zone without someone in authority taking her in. At some point, she’d be busted.

We walked down to the South Ferry, and found a few ambulances parked up along the curved ramp used to load cars into the Staten Island Ferry. We went in and hooked up with the Triage Officer who seemed glad to see us. I found a nicely supplied and set-up Triage area, and left our stuff there. The officer said that mostly it was Diff breathing and severe eye irritation.
I asked around for some nasal cannula tubes, and found some 1000 ml bags of saline. The other EMT’s and Paramedics who were there didn’t see why I wanted that stuff, they said they were using cut open bags for eye irrigation. For one thing, that got the patient pretty wet around the face and neck. For another thing, straight irrigation allowed the matter in the eyes to flow down into the mouth. Both unacceptable side effects. I used a technique I’d learned from my EMT instructor last spring, and then modified that a bit more so it would be easier to control the flow of fluids and allow me to use one bag on more than one patient. Made me feel good to show a new trick to these seasoned NY EMS guys...... and it worked more efficiently than the way they had been doing it.

I ran into an removed by moderator cameraman there, and we talked for a while. It turned out that he had taken the first Steadicam workshop even given in 1981, when he was a Marine. Small world. We only had a few patients, all of whom let me make use of the irrigation system I’d rigged up since all of their eyes were very badly irritated. Bloodshot, swollen and scratchy.

Omar got a cell call from another surgeon uptown in the Piers, they had word they’d be getting a group of victims in. Who knew if it was true? By then there was another doctor there, and some Paramedics and so we left after checking out with the Triage Officer, and hopped a ride north with an ambulance.

We went back in, and Omar wandered off. I’d heard before I left that he had gone back down into the Hot Zone with another crew. He was itching to do some patient contact and unlike me, he’d had none. This kind of brings up something I thought about while I was down there, and something I witnessed that afternoon of Day 2 at the Chelsea Piers, before I left.

People have this overwhelming urge to do SOMETHING to help. If they were close enough, and trained, they’d do what I did and walk into it. Lacking training but having proximity, they’d hook up with Red Cross or some such, and work hard and long hours right there, giving support and sustenance. Surely a necessity. If they lacked all of those things, then I think many millions of people in the surrounding states and areas were and are very frustrated. There are clothing drives for the firefighters to have fresh clothes to get into, as they work and sleep in endless shifts. There, at the Piers, this was evident in the most extreme ways. I witnessed an argument between the guy who was keeping things locked up at the gate, and a man who was a counselor. He was SO insistent that he be allowed in to help out with the family members. The man at the gate told him gently- at first- that there was a full staff inside already and that he should leave his name and be assigned a number and they’d bring him in on a shift. Interestingly, he was telling the truth, he HAD been inside the day before- Tuesday. And, his friend who had brought him in was walking by, so in the midst of this argument, he yelled out his friends name and was escorted in. But, the heated tempers really pointed up the whole issue of how primal this drive to help out and be involved was, and is.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Piers were totally secured. With my I.D. and my gear I was passed through into the building, but many were not. Anyone who hadn’t been working, wasn’t allowed in at all. The exception of course was the fact that there was a very large Waiting Families area that was set up, away from the hospital area. It was staffed with counselors, etc. Any family member showing up was escorted there.

I got wind that Dan Rather might be doing a stand-up broadcast from the Piers. I walked outside the gated area and found a cameraman and asked if he was with removed by moderator. He was, and he hooked me up with his producer. She was VERY distant with me- treating me like anyone else who wasn’t Media. Another reminder. If you’re In, you’re IN, be it the medical teams on this event, the Media covering it, whatever. She had the Face on, cool and detached. I told her my name, and said I shoot the “48 Hours” remotes with Dan. Her ENTIRE expression and demeanor changed immediately. When I asked her to call Susan Zirinsky, Dan’s Producer, she was a bit wary. Clearly, that’s not something people do normally. She did call, and when she said my name to Z, her eyes flew wide and she said, “ Z wants to talk to you !”. ( Apparently that doesn’t happen much either. I know Z from the countless shoots I’ve done. She’s great, and accessible and besides those people don’t unnerve me ). I told Z that I was working the site and did she need any info that I might be able to get. I asked around about the morgue set-up, but nothing was said to me that was hard information.

A little while later, I walked around the outside of the Piers, and through the other large treatment area and took a look. It seemed to me that there were a LOT of FDNY Ambulances in line, and a lot of staff. I knew they had hundreds of names in reserve to call in, so I decided to leave. I was upset enough by that time, and ragged from lack of sleep. I also needed to get ahold of the Steadicam and make sure the gear was secured again.

I signed out at the desk, and walked down to 14th street. I figured I’d find a cab there. As I stood at the corner of the West Side Highway and 14th street, a flatbed tow truck went by, going north. Chained onto it was the remains of a FDNY ambulance. There was nothing left of it besides the flooring and the right side of the back of it. Everything else was torn away and burned. It was the first moment in all of it that I cried, and only then because I knew I was walking away from it for now. I turned and saw 6 or 7 police officers with what must have been the same expression I had. Normally, their faces are careful masks. Not then.

I turned and started walking down 14th, and flagged down a car that had an NYPD ID placard in the windshield. It was just that kind of situation- something I’d never think of doing normally, I simply did. The car stopped, and the lady let me in. She was a detective with the D.A.’s office, and had spent her time interviewing family members and gathering info on missing people. Turns out she recognized me, and after a few guesses we realized that she does security at Good Morning America, and I saw her a few weeks ago when I was there. VERY small world. She got me to where I’d been shooting, and let me out.

That’s about it. I did call a CISD counselor with Mobile Life the day after I got home, to find out what I was in for as far as post-event stress and symptoms. So far, he’s been right on the money. Tired, irritated, crying, etc. I assume it’ll fade with time but I wonder how I’ll feel the next time I do an ambulance call here.

9:30 a.m.
Friday, September 14th, 2001

I've removed all references to specific business entities that could potentially be used to identify the Cartooniverse in the real world at his request. - UB 9/18/01

[Edited by UncleBeer on 09-18-2001 at 04:32 PM]
Old 09-14-2001, 12:26 PM
Weirddave is offline
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'Toon, I say this with absolute, 100% sincerity. You're my hero. I KNOW you are but one of thousands, but I know you. I also know you'll deny that you are any kind of hero. You would be wrong, my friend, so very, very wrong.
Old 09-14-2001, 12:29 PM
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Old 09-14-2001, 12:32 PM
MannyL is offline
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Originally posted by Weirddave
'Toon, I say this with absolute, 100% sincerity. You're my hero. I KNOW you are but one of thousands, but I know you. I also know you'll deny that you are any kind of hero. You would be wrong, my friend, so very, very wrong.
I wanted to say the same but Weiddave beat me to it. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
Old 09-14-2001, 12:33 PM
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You did what you had to do and I'm so glad you are safe. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
Some people come into our lives and quickly go, others stay awhile. Either way, they leave footprints on our hearts and we are never the same. May my footprints always be gentle on your heart.
Old 09-14-2001, 12:34 PM
tisiphone is offline
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I put this in the wrong thread earlier.

Heroes indeed.
Old 09-14-2001, 12:44 PM
GingerOfTheNorth is offline
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I am so very proud of you, and I'm so very glad you're safe. We were very very worried about you.
I knew that you would be right in the middle of everything. I spent a lot of tears on you, Peter. I can not express to you the relief that I feel knowing that you are safe.
I don't think so, therefore I'm probably not.
Old 09-14-2001, 01:09 PM
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Cartooniverse, I am SO GLAD you are alive, okay, and able to resume duties as my humble manservant.
Old 09-14-2001, 01:13 PM
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I was just at lunch, talking to a coworker and her husband about what's happened over the past week. We work at a large-ish university, and have seen a wide range of reactions, including disinterest. My coworker wondered how so many people here could be wandering around without a care as to what's happened. I pointed out to her that those people live in an insular, isolated world, and it's just their space that they worry about. We agreed that it's so much harder to deal with what happened when you have a personal connection to it. We shared stories.. A friend worked in Tower 2.. thank god she's okay. Simetra, who I've only met once yet still feel priviledged to call friend.. my insides just curl up on themselves thinking what he and his brothers may go through soon, and every day I pray that my worst fears won't come true. Many of the victims on the plane out of Boston came from towns very close to my own hometown.. I keep scanning the lists, wondering if the next name will be someone I know. Another friend, still waiting to hear from her brother-in-law and rapidly losing hope. Another friend's uncle is a United pilot, and was working on Tuesday.. how close did he come to being on one of those flights? Those are only my connections.. my coworker had many more, as did her husband. We couldn't imagine anyone being unaffected, but some people are. Both Mr. Bobkitty and I are on call right now for crisis counseling.. we've already run more coping/grief sessions than I care to count. Mr. Bobkitty had a temporary IV put in on Tuesday, and the only time he's stopped working since then has been the 1.5 hours twice a day he goes in to have medication pumped in. He won't admit it, but I think that's the only time he sleeps. I'm exhausted and my voice is shot, but I keep going because there are still people in pain who need me to listen. If there was more I could do, I would.

I had a point when I started, really. I just misplaced it for a moment.

Toon, from the time I began lurking on this board you have been the living image of a standard I wish to someday attain. The absolute epitomy of someone who is at once so human and yet so much more. There are tears in my eyes as I read this, and- I am almost ashamed to admit- not a few selfish thoughts. Just for a moment (too long, IMO) I was angry with you for endangering yourself- what if something had happened to you? We would be so much poorer for it. *I* would be so much poorer for it. I want to be able to shake your hand one day, a long time from now, and tell you that you have helped make me a better person. I'm not ready right now.. I have so much more work to do on myself. But you know, those thoughts are banished by one simple truth.. I cannot imagine you behaving any differently given the situation you found yourself in. I have no doubt that you touched everyone you came into contact with just as much as they touched you.. bringing into the survivors' lives a moment of hope, a moment of peace amidst the horror. A friendly face armed with a kind word. You are a good man, Toon. Please don't ever forget that. And please take care of yourself. Anything you need, anything I can do, just let me know.

Old 09-14-2001, 01:19 PM
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Cartooniverse, I'm proud to know you.
Old 09-14-2001, 01:29 PM
seawitch is offline
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Cartooniverse -

I've never really interacted with you, but I've thought well of you in reading posts before this one. After today, I am both proud and indebted to you. You had the training, opportunity, and strength of character to offer the help that was sorely needed.

Over the past few days, I've been desperately wishing I could do something more. You have my deepest thanks and admiration for providing what I could not.

We may never meet. But if you find yourself in need, I am not a stranger. And I owe you. We all do.
Old 09-14-2001, 02:10 PM
Pandora is offline
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Thank you.
Thank you and every one of the others willing to risk their lives for the hope of helping others.

Old 09-14-2001, 02:37 PM
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Toon, I hope you don't mind if I forwarded your experiences to a couple co-workers along with a stern request that they NOT forward it any further. You deserve your privacy, but it would be nice for something TRUE to get spammed around.
Old 09-14-2001, 03:03 PM
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I was so glad to see this thread.

Today bunnygirl and I had lunch and were talking about the white elephant thing. it made me think of cartooniverse. I suddenly thought, I haven't seen his name on the boards the last few days....isn't he in new york? And I started to feel panicky, but didn't say anything to bunny because I thought I must have just missed his name on the Big Apple Doper Check In Here thread, or I had his location in NY state wrong. I didn't want to seem overly dramatic.

And here you were. Whew.
Old 09-14-2001, 04:01 PM
gobear is offline
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Cartooniverse, I knew you were a great guy from having breakfast with you, but you are on a whole new level of admiration now. I'm exceedingly proud to know you.
Old 09-14-2001, 04:34 PM
Wicked Blue is offline
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Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Old 09-14-2001, 05:25 PM
Geek Mecha is online now
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Tooni, thank you. Your heart is pure gold.

I too am glad you're safe.

Take care, dear.
Old 09-14-2001, 05:57 PM
silent_rob is offline
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That's incredible, Cartooniverse, and you are indeed an incredible person. I'm glad you're safe and sound. I hope you're doing better with how you're feeling, now, though I'm sure it's going to be hard.
Old 09-14-2001, 06:09 PM
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FairyChatMom is online now
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Thanks so much for sharing this... and for sharing of yourself!!
Old 09-14-2001, 06:33 PM
Persephone is offline
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I am better for living on the same planet as you, Cartooniverse.

Thank you.
Old 09-14-2001, 06:48 PM
Cartooniverse is offline
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Oh sure, blow me away thoroughly..... :)

Originally posted by magdalene
Cartooniverse, I am SO GLAD you are alive, okay, and able to resume duties as my humble manservant.

.....grovel grovel..... as you wish, M'Lady......

I don't know what to say in response to these postings. I was kind of hoping this thread would become a place to do what I did, and share some stories.

I will be my usual bigmouth outspoken self, and say this- I am, still, right now, scared shitless. Man....

You all have made me feel very good, and for that I am grateful. My mind and heart is turned to that damned Ground Zero, where those firefighters and Search and Rescue people toil...and toil....and toil....and toil....

This community has come together. For THAT I am SO proud, proud to be a part of the SDMB. Y'all are the best. ( Especially you, Mags, my Leige.....<grin>...)

Old 09-14-2001, 07:01 PM
rocking chair is offline
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thank you.
Old 09-14-2001, 07:31 PM
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Re: Oh sure, blow me away thoroughly..... :)

Originally posted by Cartooniverse
I was kind of hoping this thread would become a place to do what I did, and share some stories.
Except most of us don't have any stories. While you were out there saving lives I was, well, here. Something that struck me about your story is that, as soon as you put your camera down, you stopped being a journalist (despite it being the Story of the Century--I pray they don't get more interesting as the century wears on) and became a total EMT, with the EMT attitudes and a distaste for the press. You didn't take advantage of your access; you just did the job that needed doing.

You are a credit to your species.
Old 09-14-2001, 07:44 PM
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Thank you and God bless you, Cartooniverse. You are a hero.
Old 09-14-2001, 07:58 PM
celestina is offline
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Thank you for sharing that. {{{{Cartooniverse}}}}
Old 09-14-2001, 08:24 PM
Diane is offline
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I've already told you this in an e-mail, but thank you.
Old 09-14-2001, 09:02 PM
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You're a hero.

It's people like you, Cartooniverse, that help make the world a better place.

Thanks for sharing your story. I'm glad to know that you made it through in one piece.
Old 09-14-2001, 10:16 PM
elelle is offline
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Thanks for writing that, Cartooniverse. Of all the myriad of coverage I've seen, yours is the most moving. I can't find the words to express the admiration I have for you in shifting gears and worlds like that in order to do what needed to be done.

Nope, words don't do it.

Bless your good heart for doing the best in the worst of circumstances.
Old 09-15-2001, 01:46 AM
Osakadave is offline
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Thank you.
Old 09-15-2001, 03:00 AM
Lux Fiat is offline
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Damn, 'Toon. All I can say is like everyone else: thanks.
Old 09-15-2001, 05:48 AM
Tansu is offline
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You are a hero and a credit to humanity.
Old 09-15-2001, 06:18 AM
TheLoadedDog is offline
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Incredible. Thank you.
Old 09-15-2001, 11:49 AM
Unix Geek is offline
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Just a post to bump this to the top. More people need to see this post.
Old 09-16-2001, 12:47 AM
coosa is offline
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Another bump.

Too many heroes will go unknown and unacknowledged during this tragedy - let us not forget this one in our midst.
Old 09-16-2001, 06:16 PM
Joaquim Matilda is offline
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Thank you
Old 09-16-2001, 06:38 PM
Baker is offline
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I tried to find an email site at removed by moderator to let them know they have an even greater talent than they know. I wanted to forward the words of Cartooniverse, but I couldn't find what I needed. If someone on this board knows how to let removed by moderator know they have a hero of their own, please write or email removed by moderator with Cartooniverse's post. Hey, I'm a baker, not a computer wizard.

[Edited by UncleBeer on 09-18-2001 at 04:37 PM]
Old 09-16-2001, 08:55 PM
Cartooniverse is offline
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Um, please don't do that.

With all due respect, and understanding that you are trying to do something positive, I have to URGENTLY ask you NOT to do something like that.

My work life has nothing to do with what I do or say here. And of course, I deserve the same anonymity and privacy as every other member.

Contacting removed by moderator would blow my privacy out of the water. It's something that I value, just as you value yours. I'm pretty honored that you would even think of such a thing, but please consider the ramifications of contacting my employer in any way.

And, just so you know-Baker- my boss at removed by moderator already recieved this by e-mail, and she passed it on to the producer of the show. I felt they should be aware of what went down after I walked out of that door. So....please let that idea go?


[Edited by UncleBeer on 09-18-2001 at 04:35 PM]
Old 09-16-2001, 10:33 PM
Baker is offline
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Sure. I honestly didn't mean any trouble, it's just that I thought you deserved some credit. Sorry if I was out of line. I haven't sent anything on so there shouldn't be any trouble. Forgiven?
Old 09-16-2001, 11:07 PM
Juniper200 is offline
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Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Cartooniverse.
Old 09-17-2001, 08:50 AM
Ethilrist is offline
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Thank you for showing us how high some people set the bar for personal responsibility. It's good to know we've all got a challenge to meet you at your level, and I think the majority of people here are up for it.

It's a little late in my life for me to be changing careers, but I've felt for years now that if I had it all to do over again, I'd be an EMT or paramedic. Your story just solidified that.

So, I'm putting in my official request for my next reincarnation. For now, I'm taking first aid classes.
Old 09-17-2001, 11:47 AM
Wolfgrrl is offline
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Thank you.

Cartooniverse, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this. I knew someone on each of the planes that hit the Twin Towers - one of the LA Kings scouts from my prior work as a sports arena security guard, and a friend of a friend. Nearly everyone I know has some first or secondhand connection to a victim. There were rumors that the hijackers may have gotten to Portland en route to Boston via the Nova Scotia ferries; I came home from vacation on the 8th on one of those ferries and now wonder about the two men who were next to me just prior to docking. I received a phone call from one of my company's Canadian customers the other day, not only to express his sympathy, but also his anger that terrorists regularly take advantage of the easy border crossing to get into the US. I'm not normally one to be suspicious or afraid but after this, I'm not traveling for a while.

I know there's no chance either of the people I knew could have survived the initial plane crashes, but this is the best I've felt in the last week, hearing the firsthand story of someone who would have helped them if they could.

~ Randi
Old 09-17-2001, 11:49 AM
Kamikazee is offline
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Thanks for the gentle reminder. I must confess I am one who too quickly lumped all "media" types into one catagory. I am new to these parts so have not seen many of your posts, but I am very impressed. Impressed with you Cartooniverse and also with SDMB in general.
"Up sluggard and waste not the day, in the grave will be sleeping enough." -Benjamin Franklin
Old 09-17-2001, 01:05 PM
beagledave is offline
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Thanks for the ground zero reporting. The courage of all the EMTs and other emergency service personnel is one of the few bright spots of this tragedy.
Old 09-17-2001, 02:38 PM
jab1 is offline
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Here's a photo of the exterior of the Chelsea Piers from Time magazine.
Old 09-17-2001, 03:45 PM
Munch is offline
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Wow. I'm speachless. Thank you.
Old 09-18-2001, 04:39 PM
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Moderator's Notes: Threadspotting is back! I had this thread hidden while I removed all references to Cartooniverse's employer and all other business entities that could possibly be used to identify the 'Toonster.

Sorry for the confusion folks.
Old 09-18-2001, 05:56 PM
jab1 is offline
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The director was the director of removed by moderator.
So when will see the first episode of "Removed by Moderator"? Sounds like a UPN game show.
Old 09-18-2001, 06:39 PM
Cartooniverse is offline
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A beer to the Uncle

{{{{{{{{{{{{Uncle Beer}}}}}}}}}}}}}}. YES, cyberhugs are trite, but short of sitting you down and BUYING you a beer, that's the best I can do.

--sniff-- Personally, I think it adds a certain elan to the entire document.

Seriously, thanks. I feel much better. And, my heartfelt thanks again to the Dopers who have felt so moved as to write something in here.

Here I sit. At my computer. Safe at home, having heard on the way home that the new estimate for total removal of debris is SIX god above.

Old 09-18-2001, 06:53 PM
Shirley Ujest is offline
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The was simply an outstanding.

I am sitting here at the library alternating between sniffling at such vivid imagary and the stunning clarity of your writing and understanding the enormity of the situation and being able to take it all in.

A tremendous sense of guilt washes over me because all I did during the entire aftermath was sit in front of my TV and weep at the images. You were able to do something and on behalf of everyone who was held hostage infront of a TV somewhere, frustrated by distance, thank you for using your skills and talents to help other out.

Catooniverse, you are incredible.

I would have given anything to see the two Army Rangers take and toss that photographers camera away.

Don't forget to pack a couple of disposable camera's next time in your jump bag!
Old 09-18-2001, 07:16 PM
Cartooniverse is offline
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Originally posted by Shirley Ujest
A tremendous sense of guilt washes over me because all I did during the entire aftermath was sit in front of my TV and weep at the images.
Shirley, I love ya. You have touched upon something here that's been disturbing me as I've read through the myriad threads here on our Boards. OUR Boards.....

How guilty should I feel that I came home after ONLY two days, while thousands of others toil? How guilty should you feel that your reaction was private and devastating? How guilty should someone feel ( to touch upon a wrathful thread in another forum ) that they don't usually show the American flag, or volunteer, or give blood?

NOT guilty at all !!!! We live in a culture that works both ways. Our mindset and way of life is a product of our culture and our culture is the product of our mindset and way of life. We all react differently, and no one way of responding is right or wrong ( barring a violent personal response, IMHO ).

It is the great gift of our country that we even have the freedoms to express ourselves in such myriad ways. Shirley, you feel guilt and perhaps that is YOUR way of dealing, but I'd beg you to let go of a lot of that guilt. It's misplaced.

We are a competitive people, and that is SO ingrained that some Dopers here - myself included- have debated with fiercely personal words just HOW much of a response is a good one, or the right one.

I feel guilty that I even entered into those debates, I really do. It felt nice to be all self-righteous and lash out but the truth is that nobody gets to sit in judgement of another person's mourning.

No guilt. You want to do something outward and positive? I heartily encourage you- there is inded a nationwide blood shortage. If one is moved to do something civic-minded, give a pint. ( I know,I read the thread on blood wife keeps over in a dead faint when she gets stuck with a needle. Me, I watch it flow. To each their own).

My somewhat rambling point here is that I feel the guilt is misplaced. Turn that energy around. Do something, no matter how small YOU may think it is.

Our country is built not on huge displays by famous people, but by anonymous quiet gestures by ordinary people responding in their personal way, to an extraordinary event.

One gesture is a gift. Ten are a movement. 275 million are a revolution. Let ours be a brilliant and passive one, of gestures and thoughts and caring.

Don't forget to pack a couple of disposable camera's next time in your jump bag!
Great. Now ya tell me


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