Jack Delaney: "It's all about the day. I was there to help people. "
As the whole world watched the horror of 9/11 unfold, and in the days and years following, many heroes emerged: heroes whose only focus that day was to save the lives of others, often at great expense to themselves. My regular readers are well familiar with one such hero whose picture remains on the sidebar here. I have written often about Keith Fairben, as his mum Diane and his dad Ken have both shared their precious son Keith with us.
Even as Ken and Diane reject the label "hero" for their beloved son - and assure us that Keith would also insist "I was just doing my job" - there are others from that day who also adamantly reject the 'hero' label for what they did on September 11.
Jack ("Don't call me Mister!") Delaney is one of those who ran towards the madness that day, as others ran away from the horrors. Jack survived 9/11, and despite never having shared his personal memories, he agreed to talk with me. He did this because Ken and Diane assured him I am one of the 'good guys.' (Yes, we will both blame Ken and Diane. As Jack likes to say: "Wasn't me!") Jack had to be convinced that what he saw and did that day matters, is important for others to know. No, honest, I did not break any of his bones, but close!!
On 9/11, Jack was Director of Emergency Services at New York Presbyterian Hospital. In that position since 1981, he was in control of 400 staff and controlled a budget of $17m. Even as the Division Jack headed up is attached to NYPH, it is a self contained Division that, on 9/11, included Advanced Life Support, EMT Paramedics, Medical Records and billing department, Specialty Transport Unit, Communications Center (including Dispatchers,) Instructors for ongoing training seminars, and other aspects of a responsive, efficient medical facility. As Emergency Manager, Jack wrote and implemented all the Medical Centers disaster response plans, preparing for any imaginable emergency, any large scale disaster such as a SARS epidemic, chlorine spills on 59th Street Bridge, train or plane crashes, etc. In his role as Emergency Manager, it was Jack's role to liaise with all the local fire departments, police departments and other emergency response teams throughout the five boroughs which make up New York city.
On 9/11, all the regular drills that had been an ongoing aspect of this division were tested to the limit, but when Jack picked up his usual 24oz 7/11 coffee that morning on his way into his office, nobody had any way of knowing that this day would bring unimaginable terror on a scale not seen before. (Jack had previously worked on the aftermath of the '93 bombing, and was in charge of forward triage on the 34th floor of Tower Two. ) On September 11, 2001, as Jack went into his 'command center' office at his usual time of 6.30am he could not know that by the end of that day, his world, his LIFE - and the lives of many thousands - had been changed, forever.
On the Tuesday morning, just as he had done for every previous day, Jack followed his finely tuned, long established routine: into his office, prior to the day shift that always started at 7.30am. When asked if he had any inkling that the 11th would be any different than the 10th, Jack tells me he doesn't remember the 10th at all, but no, nothing to suggest that this day would be anything other than a 'regular day.' That morning, Jack did what he always did: stood out on the ambulance deck (smoking lounge) with the EMTs and Paramedics enjoying the 'magnificent view of the East River, watching the tugboats. It was an incredibly beautiful day.'
Locking his office door behind him, as he always did, Jack set to doing those things he always did before the phone lines were turned on and would start ringing at 9am. In his 'command center' he would answer emails, and listen to the multiple chattering radios, connecting his hub to all emergency channels, (Fire Dept, Police Dept, etc etc) 'noise that would drive a civilian mad.'
What follows is a retelling of what happened on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, as Jack Delaney shared with me:
The dedicated phones started ringing off the hook, and somebody was pounding on my door, people were screaming at me. I went out into the communications center. I had had a tv installed for the midnight shift. It was on. Pictures of one of the towers with smoke billowing out. Dispatch was saying there were reports of a small aircraft gone into the tower. We all assumed it was probably a pilot who had a heart attack or something, a Piper, but it was a pretty sizeable fire. It had obviously just happened. I told my staff to prepare the vehicles (10 - 12 ) and make sure they were stocked with disaster supplies.
The Fire Department called us for additional units. 'Tons of injured people. We need all available units. ' Keith (Fairben) and Mario(Santoro) had arrived at the tower and got on their private radio to dispatch: 'We need help. So many people.'
I suspended the training classes, and pulled the instructors onto the job. Just as I was leaving to go to the scene, the tv was reporting that it was not a small plane into the tower but a large commercial plane. An intentional act, no accident.
We were enroute when the second plane hit, and removed all doubt for me: this was a terrorist act. This was war.
I called the vice president of the hospital and told him to put the disaster plan into effect. NYPH is one of two burn centers in the region, and a well regarded trauma center.
When we got to the scene, it was mayhem. I directed the ambulances into in front of the towers, approximately 3,000 feet away from the towers. I told the staff to prepare all supplies as I reported to the command center, to get a briefing. The command center was previously located in the lobby of Tower 2, but it had been moved to the exterior. There were a lot of injured in the lobby of Tower 2 and the hotel.
As I walked back to my assembled staff, I saw many jumpers after Tower 2 had been hit. There was a blazing fire and you could see the flames behind the people in the windows as they jumped.
They were jumping singly and in groups of 2 or 3 holding hands.. It was an eerie, surreal feeling, watching them jump. They knew there was no other way out, and even as they had flames on their backs, they were at peace.
I stopped to look at a guy trying to scale down the outside of the building between the columns that paralleled the windows. He was not ready to die. He was putting all his might, his concentration, into getting down. He got maybe 35 feet and he slipped and fell backwards.
I was staring at the jumpers, studying them as they came down, because I was worried they would land on one of my guys and kill them. As the jumpers came down they landed on the canopy leading to the lobby of Tower 2 and they bounced off. The canopy was strong enough to withstand the weight without breaking. My thought process then became to get close enough to the tower and have crews run in under the protection of the canopy.
(Picture used with photographer's permission. Jack Delaney sole copyright)
We started walking toward the tower. It was very slow going because of all the debris and body parts - hands, feet etc. We were all in auto mode. We were trying to walk with respect and avoid walking on the bodies, the body parts, but eventually the sheer amount of body parts were too close together and we were inadvertently stepping on them.
I looked up at the towers, and if you blotted out the flames shooting out of the towers, they looked so beautiful as they sparkled from the sunlight. As we got closer to the south east corner of Tower 2, a Port Authority cop came screaming 'Run for your lives. It's coming down'. What was I thinking? My thought process was: Do we run into the tower or do we turn around and run away far enough? We only had a microcosmic view of what was going on. We thought only the top was coming down, and had no clue that the entire tower was coming down.
We ran away.
Some of my staff didn't know why we were running. As we ran, a tremendous force of hot air came at our backs and pushed us further away. Debris started to fall. First small chunks of rock and concrete. The debris started getting bigger. A HVAC duct came down and landed in front of me. I kept running.
Then I Beams started coming down. I was running with another guy. Running between us was a young woman. As we ran, an I Beam cut off her head.
I realized we weren't beating this. I figured if I could dive under some stairs - could get into a niche - that major pieces would be deflected.
Diving for cover, I was flying through the air and was carried, gliding, for about 100 feet. A bunch of us landed together. We lay there as the debris continued to land on and around us.
(Jack's car - "squeezed lemons" - parked in front of towers)
I was laying there reflecting on my children.. My oldest son was due into JFK about the time the first tower came down, returning from a trip to California. I later learned that his plane was one of the last planes allowed to land at JFK. As I lay there, I realized my heart rate was down to high 30's, low 40's. I was not breathing. I was at peace, waiting to die. But I wasn't fading away. Wiggling the fingers on one hand, then the other. Then wiggling my toes. It was so surreal. I remember thinking: 'This is so weird. I'm not fading away. I think I'm wiggling my hands and my toes.'
All of a sudden my heart rate shot up: oh crap. I'm not dying. Went to take a breath. I couldn't breathe. Something was stopping me breathing. I don't know why, but I lifted my head up, and took a breath - if you want to call it that. I realized I was buried in 6 - 8" of concrete dust face down. No, I have no idea how long I was buried. Time became irrelevant. The doctors say I was knocked unconscious, but I don't believe I was, because I was aware of everything, my heart beat etc.
I ultimately unburied myself, and managed to crawl around on my hands and knees. I could not stand up - and you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. It was so extraordinarily difficult to breathe. Was able to get to my feet in a crouching position.. As I managed to get further on I was able to see a little. Got to the World Financial Center. I saw a broken window. My thought process as I stood there was to get through the window away from the flying smoke. If I had gone just three more steps I would have fallen down 25 feet on the sub basement stairs.
As it was, there was a maintenance man at the bottom of the stairs, and he opened the door and myself and some Emergency Service Unit cops went in.
There was a canteen with a couple of gentlemen behind the counter, who had absolutely no clue what was happening outside. They had bottled water on ice, so we grabbed some and we tried to clean our mouths out. My mouth was full of concrete dust, and I started to gag. Several of the guys vomited. We had concrete dust in our eyes, and we washed them, too, trying to get rid of it.
We asked for rags, but they had absolutely nothing cloth, only plastic.
I turned to Mike who was on only his second day on the job as Paramedic, and told him we were going back upstairs to look for our guys. We went out but couldn't find any of our guys, and we went back to where we'd been initially. Nobody there. We started picking through the rubble, and we hear a second loud rumble: 'the other one's coming down.' We ran past the financial center around the corner to a bank. Figured that would be secure, and we could maybe get into a vault. There was not a soul in the bank. We ran down a hallway, and couldn't find a vault. Everything was shaking.
I told Mike: 'Get under a doorway.' As we stood directly opposite each other, everything started popping, and we were plunged into total darkness. Then I heard clunk clunk clunk. It was all the doors of the bank automatically locking.
At some point we decided to go back outside. I went to a window intending to climb out, but the window - 1" thick - had a huge slither of glass hanging down like a dagger from the frame, that we would have to remove before we could get out.
While I'm trying to figure this out (using my MacGyver skills) Mike says: Hey Boss, how about we use the door? We did, and went back into the rubble. We bumped into my Fire Department friend Charlie. He was emotionally lost. We hugged and had an emotional exchange as he told me he was searching for his brother-in-law who he last saw entering the Towers: I was just talking to him 15 minutes ago.
I told him I was looking for my staff, and Charlie told me they were all at the water's edge. I went there and found them, and about 10 of them were hurt. I shuttled several of them on a boat to the New Jersey side of the harbor, then returned back to the rubble, where I was put in charge of the south west sector. I stayed there, and when others came and relieved me of that job, I returned to the sector where Keith and Mario had last been seen, to resume searching for them. Several times I was approached by other rescuers who recognized that I was injured. They wanted to treat and transport me to the hospital and I told them to 'go screw yourselves.' Throughout that time the dispatcher kept doing radio roll calls.
All except Keith and Mario were accounted for. I had no radio at this point because I had lost mine, so the hospital had lost contact with me. Two teams were sent out to find me, and they spread out. One of the teams found Keith and Mario's ambulance while they were looking for me. 10 David was totaled but it still drove. When they found me, they threw me in the back.
They took me to Cornell. When we got there, I got out by myself - under my own steam - and was met at the ambulance deck by the Nurse Manager. All my guys were waiting at the ER entrance, and I didn't want them to see me as I was. I said this and Brian said to me: 'Come on. I'll take you the back way.' I told him 'No, Brian, I am not gonna be seen like this by anybody.' I looked like a snowman with red dots for eyes. We argued, and I finally told him: I'm going to my office to take a shower. Still Brian argued with me, so I told him: Rank has it's privileges. He tried Let's make a deal. I told him Nope.
I went to my office where a couple of nurses were waiting for me. I took off all my clothes and put them into a big garbage bag they were holding out. While in the shower, I realized I now had no clothes, so I better be nice to the nurses. They found me something to wear and I went to ER and laid on a stretcher. I had six security guys placed around me to guard me, and then all the different doctors came: Burn doctors ( the hair on half my head was badly singed,) Ophthamology, ENT, and at least eight others from different specialties. I couldn't hear, and the doctors were pulling out all sorts of debris from my ears and my nose. They put me on oxygen. They wanted to do a blood gas on me. My response? You guys drop your drawers and do it first, then maybe we'll talk. No blood gases were done.
My boss came in, then the hospital president. I told them I was going to leave. Some guy who was the primary doctor asked me who was the last doctor I had seen. I told him that had been when I was 16 and that doctor had been a pediatrician. I was never sick, had never seen another doctor. They told me they wanted to keep me on oxygen. My reply? 'Dude, I'm out of here. I got two families to call.'
The President turned to the ER attending and told him: 'We have to let him go, because if we don't, he'll leave anyway, and then never come back. Letting him go, means that he may come back if he needs to.'
By this time it was about 7 - 7.30pm and I knew I had to call Ken and Diane (Fairben,) and Mario's wife. With the security guards stationed outside my office, I knew I had to tell these families that 'we lost radio contact with Keith and Mario when the first tower came down. I had to tell Ken and Diane 'I lost your son,' and Mario's wife 'I lost your husband.' Turns out that Keith's mom and dad had called dispatch earlier in the day, and had already been told about the loss of radio contact.
Diane and Ken actually came into the hospital the following day; met some of Keith's co-workers. The two of them were so inspirational. They were absolutely incredible people. They would speak to the media, and participated in any number of events. They really embraced it. Knowing that EMS was Keith's life, they wanted to honor him.
Basic Life Support (BLS) ambulance
After I had called both families, I then returned to Ground Zero. Because we absolutely respected the dead lying all around, the search and rescue was very time consuming. It was two and a half weeks later that the operation turned into search and recovery. The city started issuing death certificates in October.
I had 10 people with me and we did a complete tour of the WTC - about 16 acres - approximately 3 or 4 days after 9/11. We went to the last known location of Keith and Mario, the area of Tower 2 lobby, and were still continually calling their radio and cell phones. Nothing.
Unbeknown to me, during the period of time that I did not have my two-way radio as it was lost in the rubble, and because the hospital had lost contact with me, I had also been put on the 'missing' list.
Rumors were swirling everywhere that I was dead, but my children knew I was alive. While I was buried in the rubble, my son, who had landed at JFK, had called me on my Nextel.
'Dad! Dad! Are you okay?'..
Once he knew I was, he went to the school and pulled the two younger kids out, and told them that I was alive.
I didn't leave Ground Zero until that Friday. The Sunday after 9/11 was the first time I signed off from 'the pile' at Ground Zero and went home. Leaving at 5.30 - 6am I went to church, Mass, on my way home. When I got home, the kids were still sleeping, so I began doing what I always did every Sunday. I cooked bacon for the usual family breakfast. My wife (now ex wife,) was high, and said to me: 'I wish you were dead,' but the kids woke up to the smell of bacon, we had breakfast together, then I paid the bills, and other Sunday morning routines.
At 11.30am I returned to Ground Zero. I didn't leave Ground Zero again until the 21st, a Friday. During that time I stayed in the hotel that was attached to the hospital. On the Friday when I went home for only the second time since 9/11, I had dinner with my kids, and then we went out front and stood on the sidewalk and watched a march downtown go right by us, heading to an all faiths memorial service. The road past my house had all four lanes closed, and it was quiet, only candlelight. It was such a weird feeling as I stood at the curb with my kids next to me. A few days before I was believed to be dead. Now they are walking past me and my family. I didn't go to the ceremony/service. I couldn't go there.
After 9/11, I tried to avoid the townspeople at all costs. When I wasn't physically at Ground Zero (and I was there for 12 weeks after,) I didn't want to be there mentally. Human nature being what it is, anybody from the town who saw me, immediately wanted to talk about it. I did not, so was better to avoid them all. I was still struggling with the fact that I was almost killed, and that I had lost four of my guys. Apart from Keith and Mario, we also lost my guys Kevin Pfeifer and Jimmy Pappageorge, who had been working for the Fire Department at the time of 9/11.
In the immediate aftermath of that Tuesday, I put psychiatrists on call 24/7 for all my staff. I held briefings twice a day, and we had counseling sessions for everybody - some open, and some closed. My department policies, that I was able to implement, were different to the general NYPH policies. We had provisions put in place so that my guys were provided psychological help through "Team Leaders." Prior to 9/11, the Police and Fire Dept were very territorial, but that all changed. Now we were all focused only on doing the honorable thing, with no regard for whose territory was whose. We were in this as one, and we worked as one.
What did I learn from all of this? Professionally, I had already been teaching Emergency Management classes. I like to share knowledge, and 9/11 gave me more tools for the toolbox. In '93 we had seen the face of terrorism, and yet we had not learned enough to prevent a 9/11. Because of that day, the knowledge we gained augmented my knowledge related to terrorism and gave me more information to share with my students. Knowledge is power, and we know this is going to happen again.
Personal lessons from that day? One day, three weeks after 9/11, and after the dust was settling both literally and figuratively, I was sitting on our deck at home, when my oldest son came to me:
Dad, we almost lost you. Look what you would have left behind. You've got to do something about mom.
I understood then that I had been 'tolerating' an intolerable situation, and when I heard his words, I knew he was so much wiser than I was. I took what he said to heart. Evaluating my then wife, and what she had been doing to them, I realized I should have been paying attention, but it wasn't on my radar. I got an attorney and put in place a restraining order. Once Child Protection Services investigated, reports gathered and written from that time 'indicated abuse and neglect' by her, and one year later she was physically removed from our home. As time neared for the court hearing to legally resolve custody of our children, which my wife was prepared to fight me for, my oldest son, and my daughter, said they would testify against her. At the very last minute, literally with my son and daughter standing next to me ready to go before the judge, my now ex wife chose to concede; therefore we avoided the open courtroom. She was then placed in the central registry for child abuse and neglect.
The way the general public - everyday American men and women - responded, was astounding. If the terrorists thought they could demoralize us, they were wrong, as Americans showed their overwhelming support. It was a HUGE error in judgment on the part of the terrorists, whose actions served to UNITE America. The general public was incredibly supportive.
The night of 9/11, we were all issued boots for down there. I went to a store in Manhattan to buy sneakers. The manager was called from the back room, and he asked me: Are you a rescuer? I told him 'yes' and he pulled the receipt from the register, signed the back, and wouldn't let me pay. He was not unique. Bars, restaurants, delis, all kept bringing food and supplies for the rescuers. Massage therapists, and even hookers, were coming down providing their services for free! Nobody could do enough to show support for all of us working at Ground Zero.
We saw our Rescue and Recovery colleagues from all across America show up to help us, from neighboring New Jersey and far beyond. The international community also rallied in support. As days went on, Australian police arrived to volunteer; the Canadians were here in force. From all over the world, the sisterhood and brotherhood was incredible. The rescue teams were flown in by the military, because the air space around Ground Zero was restricted for weeks. On 9/11, when the dust was still thick in the air, we couldn't see overhead, and couldn't identify what the planes were. Every time we heard a plane above, people would dive for cover.
Our government? Rudy Giuliani was incredible. Came down to 'the pile. ' A real champ. Governor George Pataki sat back and let Rudy run the show. The politicians were looking to pull a rabbit out of a hat - to tap into the American groundswell of support. I was called upon to be present when the politicians signed a bill into law that all children of any rescue worker killed or permanently injured would be put through college, all expenses paid. I was so damned busy, trying to do my job, as well as attend all the political 'events' I was called upon to do. From NASDAQ, to cocktail parties. It was so crazy, and I didn't have much time for my kids, which to me were - and are - so important.
Christi Whitman and the EPA was a great disappointment to all of us after the fact. The EPA famously released reports minimalizing what we had all been exposed to. I'd like to have seen her in that bag that I put the clothes I wore on 9/11, spinning, and have her be in the same position she put us in. Then let her tell all of us how minimally we were all affected.
Most of the other politicians probably did what they could, as the general public demanded their support for all affected by 9/11. The public led; the politicians had to follow.
I saw evil that day, but I came to recognize that Osama bin Laden was the most brilliant strategist in the world. You can't take that away from the terrorists of 9/11. When bin Laden was killed, I was just hopeful that he didn't have someone waiting in the wings, an apprentice, trained by him. Do they have the same patience as bin Laden? How many years did they wait after '93? bin Laden was always willing to forgo his plans if things didn't go according to their well-laid out strategy.
We have become complacent and the problem is that our government is trying to protect the general public. It is a farce, as we try to put people at ease. The public - who doesn't have the knowledge to walk around in a terrorized state - is forgetting. The terrorists do not forget, even as the US governments seek to reassure the world that we are open for business: tourism dollars.
In war, plans are game changing, and war was declared on us, on our own soil. From an Emergency Management perspective, war changes the way we operate. We operate day to day as the public expects of us, but in wartime, all bets are off. 9/11 was totally different from any normal expectations from the public, so our Emergency response was also totally different from what the public normally sees of us. If, on 9/11, anybody even slightly suspicious, questionable, had appeared on a bridge, they would have been immediately subdued, no questions asked. Period. End of story.
Since then, bridges and hospitals have been pre-identified as 'soft targets.' NYPH is one of the two burn centers in the 5 boroughs, with a trauma center, and DECON team. A very valuable target, and yes, the terrorists DO know this.
Ambulances now have GPS and, when out of service, we have electronic fences around them. If they leave the geographic area, and are not authorized, alarms go off. The vehicles themselves also have all sorts of highly technological equipment on them - to thwart terrorism use - that is not publicly known.
The general public needs to keep loudly showing their support for all affected by 9/11. They must remember that everybody down there that day and in the days following, lives - will always live - with the aftermath of that time. They need to demand tangible action, support, by the politicians. The public's support on 9/11, and in the days and months following, demanded that the politicians responded appropriately. Having seen how the politicians had to respond then, I am sure that if the public kept up their initial level of support, the politicians would have no choice but to do the right thing for all from 9/11, and their families.
The American public has no concept of the ongoing, behind-the-scenes, training of the police, Fire and EMS for future events. Rescue and recovery teams respond anywhere. The US government, the politicians, have forgotten the Responders from 9/11; they have been allowed to. Meanwhile, the 9/11 police, EMS and First Responders are dying one by one. Leaves a very bad taste in Responders' mouths.
We were running in, while everyone else was running out. Who is going to take care of our families?
Lessons learned? If the exact same scenario as 9/11 happened today, First Responders would be more 'diligent' in their assessment of the risks to their lives. We now have more thorough, rigorous, assessment protocols in place, that are followed before we send any First Responders into such disasters. From now on, we will be taking a much more cautious approach to deploying our First Responders, and not until we have ensured their safety, by OUR standards, including having the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment,) will we send them into such a scene again.
There is clearly a disconnect from our government. Initially the public was very emotional, but as time has gone on from 9/11, the general public has moved on, and so have the politicians. The moral of my story is that the government needs to become - must be - pro-active for First Responders. Laws specific to 9/11 have been written that would support the First Responders and their families. And yes, I have been involved in some of them. If the government was really committed to the First Responders, they would be implementing these laws for any future event as well. The Victims Compensation Bill was only valid - could only be drawn against - for two years after 9/11. Oklahoma City should have been an eye-opener but it was not. Although much smaller in size than 9/11, any positive changes that could have been brought forward, learned from that event, were swept under the rug. All because it is ALL political.
What am I most proud of from 9/11? My kids. I could not have done what I did - gone through what I did - without their love and support. Very powerful. I can't put into words how important that was. Irreplaceable. I lost 56 buddies that day, and my kids chose to go to the funerals with me, standing beside me. If I hadn't had that, I don't know how I would have survived the emotional roller coaster.
The second thing I am most proud of that day was the tremendous support from my staff. They thought I was supporting them. I was always seen as 'the rock,' never showed emotion, and I don't think they realize how much they supported me.
My biggest regret? Not having the foresight to prevent the loss of my guys.
9/11 was also a day unlike any other for the media. Just as the Rescuers became victims, so too did the media. In the minutes before the towers collapsed, I saw a photographer taking pictures of myself and my guys, and have asked myself 'what kinda guy would keep taking pictures as we were being buried alive?' By the time they became the media again, we were also Rescuers again, and not victims. By then we had our guys all over the place and we were not about to tolerate any media intrusion. A security perimeter was rapidly set up, and only those with approved credentials were allowed on 'the pile.' Every ID'ed credential authorized the bearer access to only specific, very limited areas. My access to all areas was unrestricted. We began bringing in supplies which reduced the need for folks to bring in individual backpacks, which also meant we could enforce our 'no cameras' rule. All our necessary gear was brought in: fire boots, helmets, PPE.
Any time somebody saw a camera, they would stand up and yell 'camera!' Everybody would stand, point at the offender and say 'Put the camera away. NO cameras!' We maintained tight control of the media at all times. Building 7 was destroyed on 9/11 and was unable to be used for press briefings. Giuliani held regular media briefings in Tower 7, and every agency that was part of the Office of Emergency Management was also in Tower 7, so they also held their media briefings there. After Tower 7 came down, about 5pm on 9/11, the city recreated the OEM on the end of a vacant pier on the west side approximately one mile from Ground Zero. That gave us 360 degree access, and total control of the media.
After 9/11 when I was really vulnerable, I avoided the media, until I got back on my feet and was able to respond appropriately.
The mainstream media at that time were - by and large - fairly compassionate in trying to get the story out to the general public. Nowadays they sensationalize. It is very sad. As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, there are many media requests for interviews. I saw a posting recently on a 9/11-related message board: 'Looking for a 20-25 year old woman who lost a loved one in 9/11.' It was very specific in who they were looking for. The justification for that? 'Because that's what our readership demographic is.' That kind of stuff goes right through me.
Ten years on, the Rescue workers impacted by 9/11 continue to live with the legacy. Medical monitoring programs were put in place, along with private counseling help, and these are still ongoing. This is wonderful program, run and staffed by wonderful people, and is totally non-threatening, non-intimidating. As part of formal studies for the government, participants fill out annual questionnaires which follow our progress, and we undergo ongoing evaluations by the doctors. Whether or not the Rescue workers choose to be involved in them is very age specific. Data show that the younger guys typically don't want to 'go there.' They choose not to, because to do so would mean they have to keep reminding themselves they are mortal. It is being documented that all of us lost at least 10 to 12 years of our lives because of that day.
Senior management is still very supportive of all of us survivors of that day, and counseling services are still available to us. The American Red Cross had millions of dollars donated by the general public, earmarked for 9/11 programs and there were many set in place. Through them, counseling and help was available to the families and kids, but the majority of the funds raised by the American Red Cross went into 'general funds.' The American public thinks they donated to 9/11. In fact they did not. Bottom line is, that if the general public knew what the Red Cross did, Red Cross donations would diminish to nothing.
You have to understand one thing: I am not saying the the president of the Red Cross is paying for landscaping lawns out of donations. Funds were diverted to the general revenues and used for non-9/11 projects. What I am saying is disaster specific donations do not exist. Five years after 9/11, as the general public lost interest, Red Cross funded programs were phased out, and the remnants of the millions of dollars absorbed into general revenue. Just like after Katerina, or earthquakes, there were many scam artists out there looking to make a quick buck. I am not accusing the Red Cross of being scam artists. To avoid the fact of all the scam artists - all those donation funnels, if you will - when, after 9/11, people were calling the City of New York, the State of New York, asking where to donate, they were told 'send your money to the Red Cross.'
The Red Cross did not fulfill their obligation to the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for 9/11. Today, the Red Cross is the last place I would tell anybody to donate to.
Following 9/11, there have been many changes in the profession of EMS. A lot of creative thinking went into the protocols that are now standard operating procedures. The lessons we learned that day were incorporated to ensure greater over-all safety, protection of our people.
There is far greater emphasis these days on personal safety for our guys. NYPH has its own HAZMAT team and their professional focus remains as it always was: mitigation of any situation. Our EMS focus has changed, as we stress their personal safety above all else. HAZMAT equipment was placed on every ambulance. Whereas before 9/11 it was not, now antidote kits are standard equipment, as are Mark 2 injectors, respirators, gas masks. September 10th, yes, these things were, of course, available to our guys. Now, the ambulances don't answer a call without knowing they are on board. 'Turn out gear' that firefighters always had, is also now on all ambulances. Before, we never had that. Now considered a standard part of PPE, all of these supplies as SOP makes our people as safe as we can make them.
I retired August 8, 2006. Prior to that, I had continued working and kept up with physical therapy. I had shoulder surgery for my right shoulder which I blew out on 9/11. That surgery didn't go exactly as planned. On 9/11 I sustained all sorts of injuries, long term health issues, and this surgery was supposed to fix some of that, so I could continue working. Didn't happen.
I was emotionally devastated at leaving my job. I had things I still wanted to complete. However, because I was in constant distress, physical pain, that took my mind away from the loss of my professional life. There was, and is, a silver lining. I always look for the silver lining. Prior to retirement I was working 12 - 16 hour days. Forced retirement gave me the opportunity to be with my kids. Prior to that, I used to do online shopping. Now I actually go shopping at the stores, which gets me out of the house. I keep myself busy, because you cannot go from 16 hour days to a standstill. I walk every day for physical activity, and I go to the gym to exercise and maintain range of motion in my right shoulder. In the wintertime cold, the pain is excruciating, but the rest of the year it is tolerable.
My three kids today? They are 28, 23 and 21. Prior to 9/11 my oldest son had always wanted to go to paramedic school. He just saw the glamorous side of it. I told him ' it's a rough go.' Post 9/11 I said 'you have now seen what it is really like. If you still want to do it, go.' He did.
I am so proud and thankful for my kids.
I was almost killed on 9/11 and their mother would have been it. They have always been phenomenal. They still go through loss of my friends - our friends - who they knew very well. They have lived through all the death and dying, and also what went on inside our house. They almost lost one parent and the other was not a parent. After their mother was removed on April 1, they had to take a leap of faith - if you will - become a family.
I was always the cook in our house, from salads, to baking, to turkey etc. We had usually had 30 or so for Thanksgiving dinner. The Easter after their mother was removed I was cooking dinner, which I burned. As we sat down to dinner, my youngest son said: 'Thank you, dad.' I asked: 'For what?' His reply? 'Dad, this is the nicest holiday we have had for years. Mom always destroyed our holidays.'
Bottom line is my kids are very accepting. On a day to day level we talk about 9/11 in a very matter of fact way. Other times are more emotional. When one of our guys dies, it touches a nerve. In my circle, when one of our guys dies, it is our 'top story,' even if the mainstream media only touches on it.
How has this affected me personally? Kind of tough. My extraordinarily strong relationship with my kids became even stronger. Personal relationships after 9/11? Difficult to say about other relationships. Since 9/11, I filter all relationships through the filter of what effect it would have on my kids. Yes, I have PTSD, but no, I don't allow it to affect me on a day to day basis. I won't go there. But, I do go with the flow.
When I was a kid, there was a radio announcer (Harry Harrison) who said every day on his program:
"Unwrap every day as if every day is a precious moment. "
I didn't understand that back then. Now I do.
(c) Brat and Jack Delaney (just because he insisted!!!)