September 11, 2001

We awoke early, newlyweds, frantically packing our bags at the beach house. Just three days earlier Candice and I had shared our vows in our commitment ceremony in North Litchfield SC. The air was crisp, and the sun was up already. The tons of things to do was my motivation. We had planned on going home via detour to Savannah. I never bothered to turn on the TV, since there was no cable TV we never really bothered to watch much TV that week anyway. Our bags were packed, the car was loaded, and off we went.

It didn't take too long of driving down the highway to notice things were strangely different. Cars were pulled off on the shoulder and drivers were staring blankly through their windshields. Large groups of people stood together talking in front of businesses along the way. I pulled into a CVS drugstore to buy a cheap road atlas so we could navigate scenic roads to Savannah. Candice and Mike stayed in the car chatting nonsensically like brothers and sisters do. Once inside I could not help but to overhear key words on the lips of other customers talking amongst themselves. Bombs, terrorists, World Trade Center. I remembered learning about the first attempts to bomb the World Trade Center when I was hired at Grady EMS, during orientation training.

I returned to the car and told Candice and Mike that something terrible had happened. It seemed as though someone may have bombed the WTC, and I turned on the radio. Every single station had stopped their music programming and everyone was talking about the obvious terrorist attacks. People were calling in voicing their opinions, and it seemed the whole country was a-buzz. At that moment we had no idea of the magnitude of what was occurring. All day we listened to DJ's and callers describe the tragedies unfolding.

I immediately called into work and asked Hedy what was happening in Atlanta. She told me that things were crazy, and that basically Public Safety agencies nation wide were on high alert, unsure of what to expect next. She knew we were out of state, and begged us to be careful driving home, to drive safely, not to rush back. We immediately redirected our route to Warner Robins to Candice's house, and it took us hours to get back, long emotionally draining hours of hearing caller after caller on the radio express their feelings over the horrendous loss of human life.

It wasn't until we made it to Candice's house and turned on CNN that we saw the footage of the first plane perched dangerously in the side of the tower, scorching and burning, and later the second plane crashing into the tower. We saw the towers collapse over and over as the media replayed the film hundreds of times that evening.

And then the reality hit. Terrorists had not only attacked America, they had purposefully attacked my family. My family of first responders. Smirking in hiding, in a foreign land, that on 9-11 they would kill the caregivers and officers who work for 911 everyday. Hundreds of EMT's, Paramedics, Police Officers, and Firefighters had been trapped in the buildings, doing their jobs, trying to evacuate occupants before the inevitable happened, before the thousands of tons of concrete and steel crumbled. Rescuers who knew the danger they ran head-on into, doing what they were trained to do, what they were paid to do, but most importantly, what they were passionate about doing... because of their love for their fellow man.

Within a couple of days, my honeymoon was over, and I returned to work at Grady. I continued onward in my career as a glorified taxi driver and bandaid applicator. An ambulance driver, occasionally blessed with the opportunity to utilize my skills and be a Paramedic, rendering aid to a small handful of critically ill or injured patients every month. And it ate me alive.

Taking asymptomatic patients to an already bursting ER for a Rx refill, kids with fevers or scraped knees, chronic backaches, headaches, toothaches, and violent drug addicts itching to kick my fat white dyke ass - became a depressing and hostile work environment a long time ago. I lied to myself for years. I lied to myself about my abilities to manage a mouthy renegade EMT partner.

For me, there was rarely any satisfaction in my work. It didn't take long to realize there was no true purpose in being a Grady Medic anymore. It was just a paycheck. But on September 11, 2001 -- those folks realized their purpose, and they charged into the vicious face of danger to save innocent lives.


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