Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reliving horror of 9/11 with doctor helping wounded on the front lines

Jimmy Breslin

Sunday, September 11th 2011, 4:00 AM

Dr. William Cole of NYU Langone Medical Center tended to World Trade Center victims on 9/11.
Marcus Santos for News
Dr. William Cole of NYU Langone Medical Center tended to World Trade Center victims on 9/11.

The politicians want Obama buried partly because of a health plan that dares to give care to many, but the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks speaks to how many medical people did just that on that day - went into the fires and climbed and carried and did it with no regard for the nation the people came from or what their wallets contained.

Watch now to understand the horrid job the medical people had to do. Dr. William Cole is in cardiac at NYU Langone Medical Center. He spent every minute after the attack in the emergency room with its smell of dead flesh. There were 400 or 500, who knows, who were rolled into the emergency room at Downtown Hospital, the downtown branch of NYU Langone. Cole's hands went to the bodies on the table in the lights, put there by ambulance people who carried in the dead or living - the dead only taking Cole's hands for such a short time, and for the living, he gave his brain and sympathy and the strength of hope to keep so many breathing.

The rest comes to us from notes made 10 years ago by Cole during the day and a half after the attack. Speaking of the notes now, he says, "I just had to sit down and document what happened."

Some of his notes:

"The first sense I had that something was wrong was in a cath lab where a tech was listening to an AM talk-radio station. He told us to be quiet because he heard something about a plane crash. They sounded as if they were joking.

"As I was going up in the elevator, some people were talking about a plane crashing into a building. On the 15th floor, large groups of people were standing in the solarium looking out the window, so I joined them. That's when I saw the two buildings fully in flames with the billowing black smoke going eastward."

Cole's father was an assistant chief of the New York Fire Department and had raised a family in Flatbush in Brooklyn.

"The fireman father in me just started to run. I ran down 11 flights and grabbed my bag and ran. I was yelling at the cab driver to drive faster and demanded he pull over to let me drive. He stopped at Allen St. I knew I could get there faster if I ran. I threw $10 at him, yelled again and ran. I was looking up at the buildings in disbelief. Crowds were either running away or staring up with open mouths or tears in their eyes. I got to the ER to find about 10 injured people being worked on. A sense of both pride and quiet intensity was felt.

"I saw Tony Dajer, and we acknowledged each other. I found Suko working alone with a horribly burnt woman. She was lying there clearly alive but motionless. She had all her clothes cut off and was intubated. Her skin was hanging off her arms, hands and fingers. She was bloated, and when I tried to feel a pulse, [I] found her skin as thick as leather. I told her she would be okay, but I knew she was as good as dead already. Things happened quickly and were like a blur. She was rapidly transferred to an NYU burn unit.

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