YONKERS, NY — September 11, 2020 — Today is a day we must stop to remind ourselves of the bravery of our heroes in uniform, and the dedication of our healthcare workers. When the first plane hit, I was in Long Island. One of my friends told me he was walking up the train station steps on his way to class when he saw the first plane hit the World Trade Center. He then turned around, ran down the stairs and he managed to catch the last E train from that area out of the city.
At the same time, my mother worked at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center. That morning she was walking to the hospital, and everyone looked up because they saw a plane above them flying unusually close. Soon after the hospital’s emergency alarm sounded, a code was placed, and because it was a trauma center, the hospital was first in line to treat the victims of the terrorist attacks. The experience was almost surreal. Several times a year the hospital practiced emergency drills. Now, the time had come for everyone to assume their respective positions, and no one could go home. The cafeteria was converted to an emergency area for the influx of expected patients and extra equipment was gathered from the Central Supply Department.
Over the course of the day, the community came together: Neighbors showed an outpouring of love and support. Medical professionals practicing or living in the area volunteered. Local restaurants provided hospital staff with food, and other businesses offered whatever the hospital needed. That day New Yorkers unified, and showed why America is the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Nineteen years later, we are still losing people because of the terrible events of that day. As an Administrative Law Judge, I had the honor of meeting a lovely New York City Traffic Enforcement Officer. I would see her every so often, but I noticed her absence was for a longer duration of time. I was told she was sick and dying from a September 11th health related illness. She was still reporting to work on desk duty because she was deemed ineligible for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and she had exhausted all of her accrued paid time off. Unfortunately, while she fought the illness that ultimately took her life, she also had to fight to be acknowledged for the selfless work she had done on this tragic day in American history.
As we spend another day in unity showing our love and paying respect to the people we have lost, and showing our appreciation to the ones that are still here, hopefully it will not take another tragedy of this magnitude to bring us back to the level of humanity that we exhibited that day.