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September 10, 2011

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Frank Raymond, MD

Until 2001, 9/11 was my father's birthday. After that year, I don't recall any more parties on that day.

At the time of WTC attacks I was an ED /Ambulance Director for a nearby NYC hospital. As one of the first responders, I brought a team of ten or so residents to Ground Zero. Although I have many memories/stories of those first few days, this is one that I think back upon most often at this time of year.

There was no lack of generosity from the surrounding business community in giving support to the rescue workers. When it came to feeding us, there was a tremendous outpouring from all the surviving downtown restaurants, delis, etc, and I recall being perplexed by the surreal nature of being confounded by such an abundance of fresh, hot gourmet food against the grey ash backdrop of the most horrendous disaster that I had ever witnessed. Utterly overwhelmed by the surrounding destruction, I nonetheless was able to appreciate the irony of being unable to choose between the gazpacho and the bisque.

That was until I was approached by a young lady bearing a cooler filled with dozens of foil wrapped squares, apparently sandwiches. She explained that her third grade class had hastily made these peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to nourish and comfort the rescuers. Of course I took a couple, mostly out of guilt, and stuffed them in my labcoat pocket. As I returned to my aforementioned prandial dilemma, I decided to have a look inside the Reynolds Wrap, out of respect for the Third Graders, before I tossed them.

As I unfolded the foil, there was revealed within, something which I had not been forewarned nor could I have anticipated: accompaning each sandwich was a note written in the hand of a small child on a piece of jelly stained loose-leaf paper. Each PB&J sandwich bore a stark and heartfelt message of encouragement and of camaraderie, each achingly personal, signed by a frightened third grade child.

I choked down the remaining heel of soggy Wonderbread as I first ascended, and then descended down the crater's rim that had yesterday been the North Tower, to rejoin the Tactical Audio Rescue Unit of the NYPD in the hope of hearing the tap or wimper of a survivor. I felt now as if I were tethered to that child that made me my lunch on 9/12.

Barry Belgorod, M.D.

http://www.thirteen.org/metrofocus/my-ny/my-911-an-ophthalmologist-at-ground-zero-in-a-dark-time-the-eye-begins-to-see/

My 9/11: An Ophthalmologist at Ground Zero
September 9, 2011 2:02 PM

Having witnessed the Twin Towers’ collapse and later that day, the unfortunate lack of injured being brought to the New York-Presbyterian Hospital ER, I was determined to do whatever I could to relieve the suffering of survivors and responders on-site, at Ground Zero.

I was given a slit-lamp microscope, surgical instruments and emergency supplies by the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, which I dissembled and transported to lower Manhattan. After being escorted through multiple NYPD, State Police and Army checkpoints, the NYPD provided me with a room at One Police Plaza, adjacent to the old NYC Command and Control Center, to treat hundreds of eye injuries in my improvised eye ER. Looking out of the window revealed devastated buildings, and streets that resembled a grey snowstorm.

As soon as the word got out that there was an ophthalmologist in the building, a long line of the injured formed outside the door. There were pulverized concrete and sheet rock fragments, wisps of fiberglass, asbestos dust and miniscule splinters of glass in hundreds of people’s eyes, microscopic removal of which, was challenging, but imperative.

During the second week, an officer from the police chief’s office personally escorted me around Ground Zero. After suiting-up with a hard hat, respirator mask, boots and rain poncho, the devastation appeared far more massive up close. The dedicated bucket brigades on “the pile” looked like ants on an anthill, with acrid smoke rising from the thousand-degree fires still burning underneath.

Falling building fragments had crushed the Winter Garden. A solitary steel girder was impaled into the side of a neighboring building, hundreds of feet above the ground. Huge machines cut though twisted steel, like scissors through paper. Cranes and bulldozers picked away at debris everywhere. The rain created ankle-deep grey mud from the residual concrete dust in the streets.

I visited one of several makeshift morgues to learn about the identification of victims’ fragmented remains. We entered a medical tent on the corner of Church and Vesey streets, manned by paramedics from Boston, where we all listened together, in silence, to the Presidential Address to Congress over the radio. It was all the more moving, standing on that site, at that very moment.

I recall leaning over a floodlit, debris-gouged precipice, watching rescue dogs being sent through serendipitous, dark openings in the rubble, to search for survivors. I was asked to remain there, in case a physician was needed. Electrifying anticipation was unfortunately followed by disappointment, as there were so very few survivors to be discovered, thus compounding the tragedy.

It was inspiring to watch New Yorkers banding together to selflessly help one another in our mutual time of need.

Dr. Barry Belgorod is a Jonas Salk Scholar and the recipient of the Oliver Memorial Prize in Ophthalmology from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He is the father of two sons, and is an eye surgeon on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Art Fougner MD

I'll give you two recollections -

1. "Dad, I have to hang up now. We're being evacuated."
I finally heard from my son again 4 hrs later. I was lucky.

2. From the MSG benefit concert for the Police and Firemen, Mike Moran, NYFD: "In the great tradition of the Irish people, Osama Bin Ladin, you can kiss my Royal Irish Ass."

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