World Trade Center Memorial 9/11
World Trade Center Memorial at Ground Zero in New York City
by Ellen Fink-Samnick, LCSW, CCM, CRP
Written 9/11/01, 6:45 pm
Virginia Hospital Center, Arlington, VA
Such, bright blue skies, I thought as I came in that morning. One of those clear, crisp pre-fall days where there is magic that surrounds us. Lots of things went through my head that morning, as they often do.
We had finished a meeting on the unit about customer service. Several of us joked about having to sit through yet another presentation on what seemed to be such a simple concept to implement into our daily practice; that of treating others as one would like to be treated. I thought of a presentation I was scheduled to give at a national conference on enhancing communications amongst teams, patients, and families and how this concept reinforced all customer service principles.
Suddenly, a colleague grabbed me and pulled me into an empty patient room. "A plane just flew into the World Trade Center." As we watched CNN in horror, I thought of my family and friends in NY. Didn't my brother mention being at some training there? As the second plane hit, I knew, as did so many others, what was happening. I had been through this before in 1993.
I was coming back from a conference at Columbia University in New York City via subway to my office at St. Vincent's Hospital, where I was a social work administrator. As I walked in, the receptionist said, "Thank goodness you are OK and made it back." I heard the disaster alarms and was confused. "With the bombing and all.... We are on disaster alert, awaiting all those people from the towers." It turned out I was on the last number 1 train to travel downtown; the ending point of the line was the World Trade Center. As I processed what had gone on, I went to my post, which was organizing and heading up the "Family Center."
I pulled myself back to 2001. I heard the fire engines outside the hospital and saw a newsflash about a plane hitting the Pentagon. I ran to the window by my office on 4E and saw smoke. This was real. The disaster alarm and announcements followed. I was caught between 1993 and 2001, trying desperately to keep cool and focus. "My son, my husband, where are they?" I thought. As I checked on the patients and visiting families, I was struck how concerned they were for me and my family in New York. There was pure emotion everywhere. One of my colleagues was concerned about her cousin, who worked in one of the towers. Staff was trying to reach family who worked at the Pentagon. Some just sat in shock, not knowing what to do next. We were all in crisis mode and had to focus. My social work intern and I went down to the Hazel Conference Center, figuring my experience at St. Vincent's might help to set up our Family Center.
As the patients and families began to stream through our doors, we were all reminded of our priority and the true essence of customer service and team communications. Human nature took over as we hugged each other to keep going. We hugged and supported patients, family members, and volunteers, grabbed hands to comfort, cried with those who feared their co-workers did not get out, and rejoiced with families we helped to reunite. The day flew by.
Later that afternoon we heard no more survivors would be coming. Nobody could seem to leave. There had to be more we could do, for someone....
Ellen Fink-Samnick, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, CCM, CRP, is Principal of EFS Supervision Strategies, LLC. Ellen Fink-Samnick is an industry expert who empowers healthcare’s transdisciplinary workforce through professional speaking, mentoring & consultation. Known and respected as, “The Ethical Compass of Case Management,” Ellen is a popular presenter and esteemed author with many publications across diverse media. With Teresa Treiger, Ellen is the co-author of the book COLLABORATE© for Professional Case Management: A Universal Competency-Based Paradigm, First Edition, to be published by Wolters Kluwer in Spring 2015. Ellen is adjunct faculty for George Mason University’s College of Health & Human Services, Director of Social Work Education for Athena Forum, LinkedIn Moderator for Ellen’s Ethical Lens© , trainer for the National Association of Social Workers, and serves as a current Editorial Board Member for Lippincott's Professional Case Management. She is a vibrant and revered professional voice. On September 11, 2001, Ellen was employed at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA - the hospital in the closest proximity to the Pentagon and that received a majority of the victims injured in that attack.