I had planned on doing a little "mini-series" of posts on Cindy, and what it was like to have the 1st female in our department. I still intend to do that.
But today is September 11.
Forgive me if you will for a "fast forward".
On September 11 2001, a day most of us will never forget, I was riding the ambulance with Cindy. This is my story of that day:
As had become my habit, I arrived at work almost an hour early. Myself, my Captain, and one of the drivers arrived about the same time. We would sit and drink coffee with the previous shift. Cindy arrived about a half hour early. Because she was there and I was her FTP, we were both assigned to the ambulance for about 3 months. The ambulance was dispatched just after she walked in. We took the call even though it was before our shift a bit. No need and having the other crew be late because of a run.
Our patient had back pain. He had had this pain for 2 months with no change. Today he decided he needed to go to the hospital. In an ambulance no less. Our policy is "You call, we haul.", so we loaded him up. Cindy was nearing the completion of her field training program, so it was time to start having her drive to the hospitals. She had been doing some emergency driving and now was time to let her find the hospitals. She knew where the hospital we were going to was, so we set out.
My patient didn't need anything from me. There was no treatment I could give for back pain lasting 2 months. He was not in a lot of pain, because we talked and chatted as she drove and I charted. This was just a ride.
We were heading to Medical City of Dallas. We will transport to any Dallas County hospital, and many in the surrounding counties. About 10 minutes into the trip, Cindy yells at me through the little window between the cab and the patient compartment. I figure she was lost or something. I stick my head through and she said that she had heard on the radio (FM) that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.
My first thought was of a small Cessna type plane, like the one that hit the Empire State Building in the 40's. I made the comment "Be glad were not firemen in New York City today."
I went back to my patient, who was napping. As we were almost to the hospital, she yells at me again. This time her tone was different, confused and maybe a bit afraid. I stuck my head back through the little window and she tells me that a second plane has hit the second WTC building.
At that point, that second, there was no discussion. No "I wonder", no maybe. We both knew that this wasn't an accident. We were being attacked. I said "Oh fuck" and told Cindy to get us to the hospital.
I sat back in the jump seat, and I was afraid.
We dropped our patient off at the ER, and walked around the corner to an empty room to see the TV with most of the ER staff gathered around. For just a few minutes we watched the fire and smoke, and saw the footage of the second plane impacting the tower. Then we saw the report that a 3rd plane had hit the Pentagon. Now I was very afraid. I told Cindy we need to get out of Dallas and get home to our station.
We left the hospital and went back to our station, listening to the radio the entire time. At the station everyone was around the TV, watching. We were talking about the number of alarms NYFD would have on the fires. We were trying to estimate the number of firefighters they would have there. We were in the middle of discussing how many people would be working in the towers and how they could all get out.....when we saw the first tower begin to pancake on itself.
How many people had we lost? How many firefighters?
We watched, like everyone else, all day. We were all sick. We didn't even buy groceries that day, no one felt like eating. All day everyone in the station felt angry and afraid. We were punched in the stomach. That day I think, Cindy became one of us. We had been caught up in the 'first woman in the department' thing. We had not realized that while she was the first woman member of our department, she was also a member of our department. Much of the "Us and Them" mentality went away that day.
In the days and weeks to come firefighters everywhere were looked on as heroes. Firefighters were singled out for their part in the WTC tragedy. The unfortunate truth is that many people forgot or overlooked the equally heroic Police and Port Authority personnel that were there doing what they could as well.
That day, we came to work in one America, and went home the next day in a different one.
PS- when we remember the people and events of that day, let us not forget that they were all people. Our country lost firefighters, and police officers, and office workers. We lost Cooks, bankers, and Clergy. We lost fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. We lost Natural Born Citizens, and we lost immigrants.
More than anything else, that day we lost innocent people. Innocent people who died in a cowardly attack. Innocent people who were killed for no other reason than going about their lives. Don't forget them. Any of them.