Remembering 9/11

By Guest Writer - September 11, 2019

Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that changed our world forever. Eighteen years ago, our everyday lives came to a standstill as we witnessed an unimaginable tragedy. For many, the moments leading up to and surrounding news of the terrorist attacks are ingrained in our memories. As we pause today to remember all the lives lost and impacted, to honor first responders and those who fight for our freedom, we also recount our own memories of 9/11.

“I was already at work in a radiology office in Manhattan when my coworkers and I heard the news over a radio station. It was the most terrifying. We were all crying and panicking. I was two months pregnant. I thought about my nephew who worked in one of the towers on the 39th floor. I tried to call him but all circuits were busy. I called my sister all day long asking about my nephew, but she had not heard from him. My husband, who worked 30 blocks from where I worked, came and picked me up on foot because all the trains stopped running and buses and taxis were stuck on the streets. We ended up waiting for my nephew at another nephew’s apartment. We waited and waited. Then at 7 that night, my nephew called and said he was on his way to the apartment. When that door opened, I hugged my nephew so tight! I was beyond grateful that he made it out alive.”  

– Sylvia Garaygay-Persaud, patient enrollment coordinator, Financial Clearance


“I was an active duty service member in the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I had just come off my shift at the hospital. I remember getting out of the shower when my husband called to tell me to turn on the news. I sat in horror as the images of the buildings falling flashed across the screen. That’s when my pager went off. I had to drop off our 2-year-old child in order to join my unit on base. It would be three days before I came home again. 9/11 forced Americans to realize we are just as vulnerable as the rest of the world that face these tragedies still on a daily basis. For me, it was seeing our nation ban together to help itself and the survivors heal. As a service member, there are not words to explain what you feel when you realize the day you have been preparing for has arrived.”

– Leighann Montoya, Clinical Research RN, Cellular Immunotherapies


“I began the morning of Sept. 11 with a business meeting in downtown Tampa. As I left, I saw groups of folks huddled around with concerned looks. I did not realize what had happened until I got to the car and heard of the developing events on the radio. My immediate concern was for my family members who lived and worked in Manhattan. By the time I arrived back at Moffitt, I heard they were safe. So, now the focus was our patients. Understandably, many team members wanted to leave and go home, but everyone stayed and did the good things they always do — providing superior care and compassion to our patients. But the truth was the best thing we could do at that time was to help the people who were in need right in front of us — our patients. A few weeks later, I was in NYC and had a chance to go near the site. The part I remember most vividly were the posters everywhere made by family and friends of their missing loved ones. Those posters came to symbolize their hope that someone would find them somewhere and that they would still be alive.”

– Jack Kolosky, chief operating officer 


“I was heading to the airport in Columbus, Ohio, to board a flight home to Albuquerque. Before we left the house, my dad screamed that a plane hit the tower. Like many we thought it was a small plane accident until we arrived at the airport. It was completely deserted with the exception of an armed guard. All flights were grounded. We turned around to go back to my uncle’s house where we stayed glued to the TV witnessing the devastation. When I was finally able to fly home, I remember the kindness of the flight crew, but also remember the quiet and somberness aboard the plane. Since 9/11, I have become more proud to be an American. I now have a flag hanging outside my house year-round, and I take time to thank every military personnel I see who is courageously serving our country. I don’t take things for granted. I always tell the people I love that I love them.”

Donna Gallenstein, RN, GI Tumor Clinic


“I was walking out of Head and Neck Tumor Board at Beth Israel Medical Center at our Downtown NYC campus around 9 a.m. and one of my colleagues said “A plane just flew into the World Trade Center." We were all commanded for the Disaster Plan and were summoned to a large conference room to prepare our health system, and all our Emergency Departments and health care personnel, for a deluge of patients in all our locations all around NYC. Many were asked to try to get to the WTC site to help. I went there with another physician colleague, but we could not get to the site, but were able to get within blocks. It was total devastation. Of course, none of the ED activity materialized because people were either dead or they escaped…..very little in between. The unity and the emotional bond that all of us New Yorkers felt that day was palpable. In our daughter’s school in NJ, there were more than ten children who started the day with two parents and ended it with one. For me, 9/11 is a day and an experience which will always represent the importance of love and unity, and the hope that it should not take another 9/11 to bring us together as a country.”

-Dr. Louis Harrison, chair, Department of Radiation Oncology

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