Today my mind goes back to that morning. I was sitting in a classroom at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The class was EMS Special Operations being taught by retired Paramedic Captain Don Lee of the Los Angeles Fire Department and Battalion Chief Porter Shellhammer from Sarasota County Fire Department in Florida. It was Day Two of the class and I was sitting at the table of then Deputy EMS Commissioner Matthew Streger of Cleveland EMS (now Attorney at Law Matthew Streger Esq.).
Matt piped up and said, "Hey, turn on CNN, my office just paged me to tell me that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center!" I thought it was a part of the class, where the instructors then asked us some hypothetical questions as to how to develop and IAP under ICS to handle such an event, but it soon became ominously evident to me that this was no hypothetical exercise. Captain Don Lee turned on the television monitors to CNN and we saw the damage that hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 had done to #1 WTC. Moments later, the class was transfixed as we watched live, hijacked American Airlines Flight 175, fly into #2WTC. I felt a sickening hollowness in my gut as realization of an attack came to me. My mind flashed to the horror of the potential that there was possibly a plane headed for the Golden Gate Bridge or into the skyline of San Francisco. Nobody knew the extent of what could be happening and our fears worsened as news of the attacks at the Pentagon and the crashed flight into the field at Shanksville, Pennsylvania were reported. Worry over the danger that my family and friends might face began to fill my day.
You see, my cousins live in New York City and the week before I went to class, I spent a few days with my cousin Stella. I remember that after saying goodbye and promising to stay in touch, I took the Amtrak from Penn Station to Baltimore to get to the National Fire Academy. As I rode down to Baltimore, I saw the Twin Towers from my seat and regretted not getting a chance to stop by and ride the elevators to the viewing floor near the top and take in the view. Maybe on my next trip I thought. The next time I got back, I saw the debris at Ground Zero. PAPD Sgt. Dave Lim showed me how much of the pile that they had cleared. The enormity of the devastation was heart numbing.
Since that day, we have come back with a new memorial that I hope to visit one day. Our nation is resilient and in spite of our divisiveness, we will persevere to overcome bias, racism, and fear mongering to honor the memory of all those who died at the World Trade Center. For this I pray to the Lord.