It seems hard to believe that it’s been 18 years since September 11, 2001. Just like everyone else I remember exactly where I was the moment I found out that our innocence was lost and that we were under attack. The 9/11 date infers an odd coincidence considering the national call-sign for any emergency is after all- 911.
I have often mulled the concept that perhaps in a parallel universe – somewhere, that there was an intersection of time and realities where the events of 9/11 overlap and that reveal is what inspired whoever it was that designated 911 as the universal number for any emergency. I know that sounds odd- but the coincidence cannot be ignored. Oh well- enough of that.
As do we all, I wish to honor today all the intrepid souls that lost their lives on that day – today is a day we should never forget but wish that we could. The world is now a different place and will forevermore have a lasting tarnish of unadulterated anguish that was disseminated so needlessly because of political and religious motivations.
It is to the medical community that I hold my standard to, and in a sense we truly are a universal language and I celebrate that our common bond is and will always be the preservation of human life regardless of race, creed, age, or gender. So while the rest of the world hems and haws and makes empty promises to change all things for the better, I firmly believe that we in the medical community have a more pure, cogent and proactive approach to maintaining the integrity of the human spirit and soul.
I raise my hand and hold out my heart to all our brothers and sisters Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and any other religion that I may have forgotten to include here – because our common goal unites us all. Whether EMT, paramedic, firefighter, doctor, nurse, operating room technician, perfusionist, nurse practitioner, or otherwise, as medical professionals the only thing that separates us is geographical space. Our paradigm is medicine and to always “do no harm”.
So where was I on September 11, 2001?
Well it just so happened I had been invited down to Alabama to meet a perfusion group and train them on a perfusion database that I had developed which they had decided to use. I arrived there on Monday, September 10, and did a full day’s workshop, teaching, and getting the software set up. The very next morning on Tuesday, the 11th of September, I had just started my early morning drive because I was staying with family in a small town 60 miles away, when while listening to the radio, I heard that the White House had been evacuated, and that both twin towers had been hit by airplanes. Those converging yet disparate events alone made the conclusion obvious that we were under attack by a foreign entity. I immediately called the group and told them that today was not going to be a day that we could accomplish anything at all. I then drove to an ATM and withdrew $500 because I wasn’t certain how significant this attack was, the scope of the enemy’s plan, and my immediate concern was that our electronic banking systems might also come under attack, as well as telecommunications and other electronic devices and systems that we have become so incredibly dependent on. I got a full tank of gas and went back to be with my family and watched the news for the next two days straight.
To make a long story short, we found ourselves driving back from Alabama up to Michigan on I 65 and as we got closer to Chicago the skies were so eerily devoid of any aircraft, punctuated only by the occasional flocks of birds. If you know Chicago as well as I do, the mere fact that O’Hare airport and second airport in Chicago were closed down, was simply unheard of and the silence of in the air was pretty deafening.
Millions of lives have been lost, trillions of dollars wasted, as the end result of this act of terror. All I can think of is how much the lives of so many could have been improved, how the world could be so much more vibrant and alive had the confluence of so many divergent and angry hearts been held at bay on that particular day.
I cannot help but wonder what our fellow perfusionists in New York City and Washington DC and all over the country were thinking while conducting cardiopulmonary bypass- as all those heart teams became aware of the fact that we were under attack. I salute those teams because they finished their jobs, and stayed true to the mission at hand. It takes courage, which all of us demonstrate every day when we put people on bypass, and it demonstrates dedication to cause that is greater than medical practice in just one culture or nation – and it enunciates clearly that we as medical professionals will not surrender OUR moral ground to petty differences of politics or religious factions.
Medicine in general is the glue in the DNA for our entire world. The only differences in medical practice throughout the globe, is access to knowledge, technology, and medical equipment that may or may not be available to medical facilities in different parts of the world.
I’m reasonably certain that the amount of money and effort that was spent in the aftermath of 9/11, had it been spent to better mankind, or to improve healthcare and medicine, this world would be a much better place.
God bless those who lost their lives on 9/11, and in the aftermath of the carnage that ensued. We are all part of the problem – and it will take all of us to fix it. I’m grateful that I work in this profession, because it excludes the evil passion that propels stuff consumed ideologies or individuals that mean harm for whatever pitiful reason they cling to as their personal mantra of destruction.
That being said – be steady and pump strong!
Feel free to share your own stories of Where were You on 911?
Sure remember the day as it was yesterday. It was a cool crisp morning with clear blue skies in Central Minnesota. I was primed and ready for cardiopulmonary bypass waiting for svg harvest and mammary take down when someone came in the OR and said, “an airplane has crashed into the world trade center in NYC”. I stepped out of the OR and into the brake room to see this on TV. Total shock as the newscasters were telling the story. At first I was shocked by the unreliability of the unfolding disaster. After a few moments passed I realized it was a terrorist act. I went back to the OR pumped the case while talking to those in the room about the events that were unfolding. After the case I went home to continue learning about how this terrorist act would forever change my world view.