October 5, 2001: Student EMT’s Give First Hand Account of WTC Rescue Efforts

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For a few members of the NYIT community, Ground Zero at the World Trade Center was more than a nightmarish image on a TV screen. For those people- EMT’s and volunteers it was all horrifyingly real, as they participated in, what then was a massive rescue effort, which after more than two weeks and thousands missing, have become with grim reality, the recovery of lost and broken bodies. “It was really bad, I can’t even describe how bad it was with words,” said May Ng, an EMT student, “it was horrific.”

May, one of those that infamous Tuesday, describes the incredible efforts by members of the medical community after the destruction.

“There were surgeons, doctors, nurses and other EMT’s all there volunteering,” she said, “we set up a mini hospital a block away from the site, however soon our building was declared unsafe, and we had to move our stuff to PACE University.”

“We carted everything off literally, packing what we could in an ambulance and either carrying the rest or simply pushing it on other equipment.”

Within all this seemingly organized movement and calm collaborative effort, no one was unaffected by what they saw and even those trained for the worst circumstances, could not remain unmoved. Both shock and fear were described as tangible elements of the environment, making every noise a threat, every movement a possible dash for escape. Everyone was on edge, especially those sent in to help, they each had their own stories to tell, and this what one EMT said of a building collapse.

“We were at PACE University, tending to the wounded, when we heard what at the time sounded like a helicopter, then came a horrible sound, almost like bombing, I looked up to see a wave of cops rushing toward us, shouting ‘run’, and so we did, that was the scariest thing I remember, I thought we were all going to die.”

Other NYIT EMT’s on the scene both immediately afterwards and in the days that followed contributed to the rescue efforts, by doing what they could even after volunteering were being turned away. Lamarr Miller was among those that visited Ground Zero on Thursday, this after bringing food supplies to Chelsea Piers. “Everybody was for us helping,” he said, “they were cheering us on, but there was nothing for us to do.”

That in itself was a blessing and also a curse, as there were already hundreds if not thousands of volunteers on site working hard to free survivors, but with their efforts yielding very little rewards, EMT’s like Miller were left having to find other ways in which to contribute. And this they did by, collecting food and other supplies, volunteering at local fire departments stripped of personnel, and spending numerous hours on standby, just in case they were needed.

Those who didn’t make it into the city, still felt a part of what was transpiring, by virtue of their helping where they could, they perhaps, in not being at ground zero maintained just a tiny bit of innocence. However, for those who did make the long trek onto Manhattan Island, had all their preconceived notions shattered, “It’s not really the city anymore,” said Lamarr Miller, “it’s like a battleground.”

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