Tuesday, September 6, 2011

St Vincent's, and Yet Another Sad Farewell

I was working on Hudson Street on the morning of the September 11th attacks. I'd heard something odd as I walked into our office building, but nothing that really gave me pause. The timeline of that day, for me, started with my cubicle partner getting a phone call from her husband who worked farther downtown than we were. He was calling to tell her that a plane had flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center--and said we should turn on the television. (At this point I'll admit saying something that has haunted me ever since...) As my colleague hung up from speaking with her husband (who I'm happy to say was unharmed) I quipped, "Well, at least it wasn't the Chrysler Building!"

Obviously, I felt like the colossal ass that I can be from time to time when events unfolded so horrifically later in the day. The scope of that day still is beyond my comprehension and I think I'm grateful for the memory gaps that do exist in my timeline of both that day and the following weeks.

We all stayed put for most of the day, either glued to the television in our spectacularly intimate "conference room" or trying to get thru to loved ones and let them know we were okay, at least for the moment. Once the fighter jets began making their flights over the city, a few of our staff ventured out to St Vincent's to give blood and see if there was anything they could do. St Vincent's would become the site I most identified with as I often walked past it in the months after the attacks. It was where the doctors and nurses waited in vain, mostly, for patients that never arrived. Watching the missing persons wall and all the photographs and flowers and wishes wither away as the days at "the pile" dragged on was heart wrenching and now and then, tragically, you'd see the person's obituary in the NY Times.

So when I heard months ago that St Vincent's was to close, I felt especially sad and as though a nearly decade old scab had been pulled off, exposing long buried pain. For me it was a spot by which I could ascertain small steps of progress, healing. Herewith, St Vincent's Hospital during the immediate post-September 11th days. The photo at the bottom, the ambulance with the "Last Roll Call" newspaper on the dashboard may have given me the roughest punch to the gut when I saw it among the other images.

1 comment:

Kcecelia said...

A moving post. I was in California and it was terrible to hear about 9.11 as events unfolded, but so different, I am sure, from what it was to live in the midst of it.