As I crossed the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I looked to my right for a final glimpse of the cityscape. Since I’d moved away, the Manhattan skyline had become synonymous with “home.” From an eastbound viewpoint, it signified I was almost there. And any time I traveled the bridge to return to Maryland, it represented the loved ones and lifestyle I would soon miss once again.
The following morning — around 8:30 a.m. on 9/11 — I chatted breezily with colleagues about the John Mellencamp concert I’d attended at Jones Beach on the ninth. Not more than 20 minutes later, one of them abruptly swept back into my cubicle.
“Bobbi!” said Carolyn. “The news is on in the conference room…a plane just crashed into one of the buildings at the World Trade Center!”
I followed her to the area where a number of our coworkers had already congregated. As we stood there watching the live coverage, I wondered how the jet could have gotten so horribly off course. And I felt sick when I thought about the people on the affected floors of the tower who, like us, had just started their workday.
Then the second plane hit.
Oh, my God, I thought in stunned silence, trying to process it all. This is deliberate.
I felt a sense of urgency in wanting to be near family and friends so I drove back to the Five Towns on the 14. As I crossed the bridge into Brooklyn and looked at the skyline, I had to catch my breath. There was a large plume of white smoke hugging the area where the towers once stood. And while the vista still signified home, it was one of the most heartbreaking sights I’d ever seen.
In the days that followed, I returned to work and interviewed an RN and a CST for a feature in Healthcare Traveler magazine. Both mobile providers had been fulfilling assignments at New York City hospitals on that tragic day. But they wanted to do more.
Dee, the nurse, donated blood and walked around the city for nine hours handing out food, water, gloves and masks with a colleague. Jason, the surgical technologist, volunteered at Chelsea Pier — where a triage center and ORs had been set up — and participated in a “bucket brigade” at Ground Zero. Compassionate and dedicated, these exceptional healthcare professionals renewed my faith in the inherent goodness of people during a time of shock and overwhelming sadness.