They both were working the day the planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. They saw the twin towers crash to the ground, the soot and debris covering lower Manhattan, and the puzzled faces of loved ones searching for information in the EDs of their hospitals. And while the memories are vivid and the shock of the terror still resides in them, they have chosen distinctly different paths since the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago.
Born and raised in Queens, Adam Trosterman, MD, grew up looking at the World Trade Center from his apartment window, studied medicine at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Manhattan, and was the intern on call for trauma surgery at NYU Bellevue the day of the attack. Today, he works as a hospitalist in Colorado and plans to spend Sept. 11 biking in the peaceful altitudes of the Rocky Mountains.
“I will probably go for a bike ride with my wife and enjoy some fresh air,” Dr. Trosterman says. “I don’t plan anything special, but I think about [Sept. 11] and I don’t think about October 11.”
A mere 10 blocks south of NYU Bellevue, straight down First Avenue, Dahlia Rizk, DO, was the hospitalist program director at Beth Israel Medical Center and in the middle of grand rounds when she first heard about the attacks on the twin towers. She has since moved to Battery Park, just a few blocks from the construction site for the new World Trade Center, and plans to participate in the 9/11 anniversary ceremony.
“I think that the memorial, the new building, and that whole area is just coming alive again. It is a real testament to the resilience of New Yorkers. Honoring the victims and their families is just so important. It’s such an incredible thing,” Dr. Rizk says. “I’m looking forward to the remembrance and celebrating the human spirit.”
Two physicians, two hospitalists, two human beings: They look back at 9/11 in diverse yet illuminating ways. These are their stories.
A self-described New Yorker, Dr. Trosterman remembers Sept. 11, 2001, as a “beautiful, gorgeous morning” in which the sun was high and the temperature was pleasant. He, however, was in poor spirits, as everyone at NYU Bellevue “hated to be on trauma surgery” rotation. He was 29, single, and, as he puts it, “having a very good time” living in Manhattan.
He arrived at work at 6 a.m. and went about the basic duties of every first-year resident on trauma surgery rotation, rounding with two of his colleagues on 15 patients. At about 8:30 a.m., he ran into another surgery intern who informed him there was a “big trauma coming, something to do with a plane, you might want to check it out.”
Big traumas in New York City are a regular occurrence, and after nearly three months on, he says, he was “pretty well versed in how to run the trauma service. You grow up fast.”
“Back in 2001, you grew up really fast,” he adds. “There were no work-hour regulations; I was working 115 hours per week.”
Dr. Trosterman ran to his trauma slots in the ED—they were “acting weird,” he notes—and began setting up the four trauma beds for the unknown mass-casualty incident (MCI). “It took maybe five minutes,” he says. “Then I got a call from one of my colleagues who was a neurosurgery intern. He starts describing to me what happened, and tells me to come up to the ICU.”