On 9/11, a Smooth and Quick Medical Response

Thousands of medical workers mobilized throughout the Northeast to care for the victims.

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Medical associations throughout the nation started fielding calls soon after the attacks, with hundreds of doctors volunteering to go to New York. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson sent more than 300 emergency medical and mortuary personnel, and authorized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ship emergency supplies. Lines stretched around the block at blood donation centers in New York, Washington, and cities across the country. Many centers ended up turning away donors because they ran out of supplies.

Great response. "I've never seen a response mobilized so well, so fast," says John Brennan, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, N.J. "We had so many volunteers, physicians, nurses, people coming in offering to do laundry, a sub shop and pizza parlor sending in food." But the hospital got only 32 patients, mostly with minor problems—smoke inhalation, stress. By Tuesday night, hospital staff was dismantling the elaborate triage unit built in the parking lot.

At the Pentagon, two trauma teams remain on the scene in two triage tents, with the workers replaced every eight hours. Lt. Col. James Goff, assistant chief of surgery at Walter Reed, says that no survivors have been removed from the building since the early hours Tuesday. "We're standing by, and our prayer is they are going to find people alive," Goff says. "But we are in a dangerous position because of the structural instability of the building."

Michael Kurtz is experiencing a measure of relief. His wife, Louise, an accountant at the Pentagon, was helicoptered to Washington Hospital Center. She suffered first- and second-degree burns over 70 percent of her body and was so wrapped in bandages her husband couldn't recognize her. But when he asked her the next morning to wiggle her toes, the toes moved. "I was ecstatic," Michael Kurtz says.

Julie Boryczewski hopes she'll be as lucky. On Wednesday morning, she stood in the bright sun outside New York University Medical Center with her mother, Krystyna, clutching a photo of her brother and sobbing. Martin Boryczewski, 29, worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center as a trader. No one had heard from him since the blast. The family has been calling hospital hotlines looking for news. They found one of Martin's coworkers, but not him. "Today we're going to comb the city, going to all the different hospitals," said Julie, 38. "He's a tough son of a bitch. We're very hopeful."

With Nell Boyce in New Jersey; Jeff Howe, Rachel K. Sobel, and Stacey Schultz in New York City; Mary Brophy Marcus, Katy Kelly, Joseph P. Shapiro, and Marianne Szegedy-Maszak in Washington, D.C.