“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” – Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl
Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; on the Pentagon just outside of Washington, D.C.; and on the plane that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The attacks killed 2,996 people — including over 400 police officers, firefighters and first responders. September 11, 2001, stands as the deadliest foreign attack on United States soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Many of us can remember exactly where we were when that first jet hit the twin towers. I was on a conference call with my leadership team at a health system in South Carolina. Like many, we at first thought it was a horrible accident. But when the second jet hit, we immediately adjourned the call and focused our minds on more pressing issues. Like every American, I was shocked, angry, and saddened to witness our great country under attack.
What was most impactful for me was witnessing the unbelievable compassion, courage, and sacrifice of first responders, health care workers, and other public servants who, without a doubt, did amazing things that day. The New York City fire fighters rushed into the towers to save others, and many lost their own lives. The health care workers in Manhattan and the greater New York City metro area were fully mobilized, with their hospitals in complete emergency preparedness mode. Although they were ready, willing, and able to receive and treat the injured from the attack, the reality was that there were few survivors for them to save. Nevertheless, these dedicated health care professionals responded to the call and were on duty when many of them were worried about their own loved ones who may have been in and around the World Trade Center that day.
I remember shortly after the attack on 9/11, how our men and women in uniform, serving our country in the military, responded without hesitation to the call of duty. They exhibited the kind of selfless service that I hope we will never take for granted.
Remembering 9/11 is first and foremost about honoring the victims and their families who experienced terrible and unimaginable losses. But remembering 9/11 is also about never forgetting that those of you who devote your lives to healthcare are truly in a special category of people who have been called to do something bigger than yourselves. Nurses, physicians and other members of the healthcare team, soldiers and others serving in our military, first responders, law enforcement and teachers all come to mind and, to me, are in that “special category”.
So, as we remember the victims of the 9/11 attack and their families today, I want to also convey thanks and appreciation to everyone working at Valleywise Health for your service above self, especially now when our community needs us more than ever. Our nation’s hospitals have been ready 24/7 when the need arises, and that has certainly been true of Valleywise Health over the last 144 years.
Stephen A. Purves
President & CEO