A Wave of Emergency Care

Marc Grossman ’93 was standing on the roof of his Manhattan home watching the Twin Towers burn when he realized he needed to get to work at the Jersey City Medical Center, one of the major trauma centers closest to the financial district. When he reached the Holland Tunnel to cross the Hudson River into Jersey City, a police officer told him that the passage hadn’t been checked yet for bombs, and that doctors were more likely needed at the disaster site.
      Grossman headed for the burning towers. “I was driving on Broadway and all these people came running toward me and police were yelling, ‘Get back! Get back!’” Grossman says. “I threw my car into reverse and backed up about five blocks as I saw the building collapse in front of me. It was like a tidal wave of smoke and debris that engulfed everything. My car was shaking like there was an earthquake. I started thinking, ‘I’m not going to do any good here if I die,’ and that’s really what I thought was happening.” So he headed back to the Holland Tunnel and spoke with the same police officer. The tunnel was still closed and considered a danger, but Grossman was allowed to proceed and took the chance. “My car was the only one in the whole tunnel and I was driving like 90 miles per hour, fearing that a bomb would go off and the tunnel would collapse around me,” he remembers.

Photo by Dr. Marc Grossman

The Twin Towers burn in the distance from Dr. Marc Grossman’s home.

      When Grossman reached the medical center, he joined hundreds of emergency room personnel in preparing for the arrival of the most severe cases from the World Trade Center. In the first wave, hospital staff treated eight critical patients who were burned severely or crushed by debris, and assisted scores of others with respiratory problems and less severe injuries. Emergency care-givers saw a total of 175 patients within a 4-hour period, Grossman says. “Then, all of a sudden, we stopped getting patients.”
      To find out why no more victims were coming in, Grossman and another doctor drove to the triage center along the Jersey Aide of the Hudson River, where ferries were transporting injured people from Manhattan. “They said the only people getting across on the ferry were going straight to Ellis Island, which had been set up as a makeshift morgue,” Grossman says. “That meant they had transported everybody who was still living, and everyone else was dead.”

—Margaret Costello


The Importance
of Preparation

won’t soon forget the 32 hours he spent on Staten Island with a search and recovery team, sifting through debris from the World Trade Center. “It opened my eyes to the magnitude of deaths that can occur as the result of terrorism,” Ryan says. “It also enlightened me about my job here on campus. I need to review our programs on an ongoing basis to make sure that our people are ready for anything that could happen.”
      Ryan, a volunteer firefighter with the Solvay, New York, fire department, trained in major disaster response as part of a fire service course created after the Oklahoma City bombing. He and other firefighters who took the course were called to New York City to help with the World Trade Center rescue and recovery efforts. Arriving September 14, Ryan was assigned to work on Staten Island, a secondary staging area where rescuers are examining debris. Within two weeks of the attacks, an estimated 101,164 tons of debris were taken to the Staten Island landfill. Law enforcement officials say the evidence collection process there could last as long as a year.
      After the experience, Ryan returned to campus with a new outlook. “I’m hoping we can get more training for people here at the University so that more people are aware of what could happen in the face of disaster,” he says. “And if anything happened at the University, hopefully, we’d be ready.”

—Margaret Costello

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Main Home Page Contents Chancellor's Message Opening Remarks
Reflections In Memoriam Time of Terror Lessons of Hope
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