Reprinted from August 2003
September 11, 2001 dawned for me like many had that summer, sunny and warm. I was out of work for nearly a year, working a 4 hour per day temp job at the time. About 9 or so my boss came in and asked if I had a news station on my radio in the bookkeeping office. His daughter had called and said that a plane had hit a skyscraper in Manhattan. I turned the radio to WHAM, the local 50,000 watt Clear Channel talk station and sat in horror for the next three hours. I suppose I did something that morning, but I have no recollection. I called my wife at work and told her, and told her that I would be going straight to the ambulance base after work. If anything came up, I’d call her.
Arrived at the base to find a couple of guys already there and the TV on. Basically we sat, made lists of supplies we could spare to send, and called people to find crews for ambulances if we had to send them. We had no calls; in fact the county was eerily quiet that day.
As the President’s movements were reported, I nodded, seeing the justification and the appropriateness of the bases he went to.
Mostly I was numb.
Lots of channel surfing, but mostly we stayed on CNN and Fox News. Not a lot of talking amongst us.
The guys who were fire guys also were visibly upset, and raring to go. The paid ambulance guy who also volunteered with us got beeped, and took off for his HQ. Funny, no women came in, though we are 2/3 female volunteers. It was fire guys, and former fire guys like me. I guess it’s a fire thing. In an emergency, go to the base.
Went home at about 5 pm, when it was becoming obvious that we wouldn’t be called just yet to do anything. The lovely wife and I talked some, but I was still numb.
I cried for the first time months and months later. I taped the CBS documentary (by the two French brothers) but we couldn’t bear to watch it for about eight weeks. Then we did, and we cried, the wife and I.
I was so proud to be an EMT, and a former firefighter that day, and every day since. My wife hugged me once and said “I’m glad you weren’t there because I wouldn’t have you now.” She knows. There was only one direction to run that day. If I could have, I would have. A part of me still mourns that I could not have done anything, that I was not able to do something, anything.
My PTSD level is pretty high, anyway, from the years of fire and EMS. This added to it, both in a good way, and in a bad way. It made it easier to be an EMT, but gave me, gave us all, some pretty big footsteps to follow in.
Yes, I recognize that the emotions that I have felt are nothing in comparison to those felt by the people who lost loved ones in these acts of murder. I have no intention of saying that they have any equivalence. I’m just talking about me.
It was no ordinary day, that September 11, 2001. It was a day that changed my life and my point of view. I’m still an EMT and will proably be until I get too old to lift or until the PTSD finally takes its toll and I start to gibber.
It was no ordinary day.