Can it really be 16 years since the fateful Monday morning that changed our world?
That was a Monday morning, and i was working at Metrohealth, for the Surgery Department in Life Flight, Trauma & Burns. I remember sitting at my desk working on a morning report when the phone rang. It was my husband, telling me a plane hit the world trade center. I thought it was a small 6 seater commuter plane, never imagining it was a hijacked commercial airline, with the lives of all of those passengers, and the fires, the fuel, the destruction.
That was the first time I heard the order to shut down all of the surgery schedules, and vacate the operating rooms to prepare for massive casualties. And that was the first time the FAA was calling to say that another plane was hijacked and moving into Cleveland air control space, which might go down. And we found a TV set and wheeled it into the conference room where we all stood fixed, watching smoldering buildings, and endless words of commentators… and then of replay of the aircraft hitting the building, and the people covered in soot and ash running from the towers, and fire and emergency responders rushing in.
It was a day of adrenaline rushes, not the good kind, and of a quiet sinking thought that this was the start of a major change in our freedom, and our lives.
And it was silence in the sky as all of the planes were grounded. An eerie silence. And of stressed out travelers scrambling to call home, make arrangements, and of that sense that all of this was far beyond all of our capacity to soak it in.
And it was a bad day to experience a traumatic injury in NE Ohio. One phone call came in the afternoon that day of a very severe car accident in Ashland, OH. Life flight was given permission to launch and recover the injured, but neglected to give the entire sequence of the code issued by the FAA to fly. My boss’s phone rang, it was the FAA with an F-18 fighter pilot conferenced in. The fighter jet met the helicopter and forced it to land and was holding the pilots and crew on the ground at gun point, not certain if they were legitimate or yet another hijacked aircraft. It did not help that the lead pilot was now an American Citizen who had been born and raised in Iran. Yes, they were legit. And yes, they were given permission to launch to recover the injured… but wow. could that not be more intimidating than to be forced to land by a jet fighter. excuse me, but with a gulp of fear and emotion all i could think is “This shit is really serious”.
In the days following the tragic events we began to hear the stories of lives now gone, of stories of courage, of people who missed their flight, or got sick and stayed home and lived when their office was completely destroyed. It was deeply emotional, and profoundly unsettling to experience this on our homeland soil.
We celebrated the courage of first responders, we shouldered up and began the rebuilt, bolstered by the courage to remain free, and never let any force of evil destroy us.
Impressive that the pain and sorrow that came from that day is still so palpable.
We will always remember 911. General Colin Powell said it best.:
“You can be sure that the American Spirit will prevail over this tragedy!”
To that I say that 16 years later our nation and our lives look so different from the innocence of the pre 911 era, but we remain free and vigilant. May we always find the strength to prevail over such things.