Immediately after the towers collapsed I was at Maimonides Medical Center where I am a senior surgical resident. As the news broke all hospitals were immediately put on alert. At this point myself and five other residents went to Lutheran Medical Center which is a nearby trauma center expecting casualties from the collapse. While at Lutheran a ferry brought some victims of the collapse to the hospital. At this point the EMS director asked our chief of trauma services if there were any doctors that could be spared to go to the WTC site. Myself and two other residents Dr. Ravi Koturo and Dr. Ravi Pulipatti volunteered our services and were immediately taken by ambulance and police escort into the city. We initially were dropped of at a triage center near city hall. We then began to walk towards the trade centers and were told by police that there were various other triage centers established on the west side. As we got within a block of the trade center the EMS director asked us if we could come and take a look at some workers and firemen who had sustained injuries. We immediately set up a triage center on Vesey Street across from the WTC and began giving care to some of the injured firefighters. Most of the issues were smoke inhalation and irrigation of the eyes from dust getting in their eyes. However, there was one firefighter who had sustained an abdominal injury whom we evaluated and then sent to a hospital.
At this point we moved the triage center around the corner of the Embassy Suites hotel because the police stated that 7 World Financial Center was unstable and therefore rescue efforts could not be commenced. Finally at about 3-4PM that building collapsed as we watched from across the West Side Highway.
Once the building went down the rescue effort commenced in full force. Firefighters and police moved into the West Side Highway and began to dig. We at this point in conjunction with the police and EMS set up a triage center and temporary morgue in the lobby of Three World Financial Center, the American Express Building right across the street from the WTC. The walkway that connected this building to the WTC was completely collapsed onto the West Side Highway. The search crews began searching the American Express Building. Suddenly a firefighter wearing a number 2 Derek Jeter shirt called us over and said he had a survivor. We immediately rushed over and found the firefighter helping carry a Deputy Police Chief out of the building. Myself and Dr. Koturo went and grabbed the officer who was bleeding from the forehead and was completely dehydrated and disoriented. However, somehow he was able to walk and we helped carry him around the corner of the building to the triage area we had set up where we were able to get him dressed with a bandage and placed in an ambulance for more definitive care. Soon after another police officer was also found and escorted by some other workers to a waiting ambulance.
At this point we set up a formal morgue as now bodies began to be brought in. Most of the bodies were severely injured and many were just simple body parts. We helped the EMS workers bring in the body bags and then they were transferred to the care of the police. In the meantime we continued to set up a triage table where we continued to treat exhausted firefighters and police officers who were helping in the dig and continued the saline eye washes as well as oxygen treatments for smoke inhalation. While there we probably treated about forty workers and I saw about 16 bodies wheeled in and declared dead. This continued into the night until 1-2 AM when the activity started to wind down and we returned to our hospital.
Navinderdeep Singh Nijher, MD, Maimonides Medical Center
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