Compelled To Write ~ September 11th. Flashback

Well here I am, negotiating with insomnia again, telling myself that I'll just check the Twitter timeline one last time. But what am I looking for? ... I love the work that other people do, but I've always had one intense need to express my own views. I began doing so by using the written word at quite an early age. In the 6th. grade my essay on World Peace was chosen out of many others from Queens, NY schools, to win a UN Peace Medal... a little round medallion that I've now misplaced, sadly. I remember how it made me feel. I felt as if my writing about "world peace" would somehow bring it about. How apropos that I'd find myself smack dab in the middle of carnage on 9/11/01 in New York City.

Pictured is New York Hospital/Cornell-Weill Medical Center (NY Presbyterian-68th Street and York Ave.)                           I was an open heart surgery, (operating room and CVICU) nurse, but our burn unit became overwhelmed, so we were all charged with going to the burn unit in the days after the event. Non-emergent heart surgeries were postponed as our hospital was in war mode. I remember being off from work that day, but my alarm clock went off around 8:45am. By chance, the radio was tuned in to the Howard Stern show. He's a shock jock and comedian, ... so I jumped out of bed when I heard his tone of voice change. He said, "Ladies and gentlemen, a plane has just hit a tower of the World Trade Center" ... "I am not joking here,... I wouldn't joke about such a thing". He seemed tense. Since I lived in the Helmsley Medical Tower connected by an underground tunnel to New York Hospital/Cornell-Weill Medical Center, I figured I'd better go over there and ask if they needed any help. By the time I got dressed and ran over to the nursing office, a second plane had hit and we all knew we were at war. 

I was told to go to the Emergency room and await direction. Staff members, (who also lived in my building), flooded into the ER on their days off, to set up and prime IV bags... those IV bags later went to waste as I recall, because; as we stood against the walls to stay out of the way of stretchers flying in with burned limbs sticking up in the air, fire fighters with glass in their eyes, other casualties from EMS, and the regular flow of patients for that huge hospital, ... we also were watching the television that was in the corner of the room. I forget which sensationalist mainstream media channel was on, ... but when I looked to the hospital priest, ... (instead of finding peace and prayer on his face that I could draw strength from), I saw terror as we all gasped in disbelief when the first and then the second tower collapsed. I saw the old priest sway and almost pass out. I knew we had just witnessed evil incarnate. 

 We thought we were going to get TONS more patients after that, so we snapped out of our shock to prepare. Unbeknownst to us, the flood of patients that had been getting shuttled up to our hospital on the upper East side, came to a creepy halt. It was chilling how the traffic stopped. We were no longer needed there in the ER. There were too many of us now. Those patients we thought we were going to save were apparently incinerated and crushed under tons of fiery debris. It was the most useless I had ever felt in my life.


My dad was also last heard from earlier that day by my mom, working down in that area... but then we couldn't get through to him on his cell. It turns out, he made it home to New Jersey hours and hours later that evening, but the poor man, (who had already witnessed horrendous things in Vietnam), had seen people leaping from the towers and actually had to run from the dust and debris. 

There I was, 32 years old, ... a nurse for 10 years at that point, ...thinking I had seen the worst of tragedies, but how wrong I was. The day after, (Sept. 12, 2001), I did my first shift ever in a burn unit.


My patient was my own age, but I never saw her face until years and years later when I had the courage to visit the memorial and look her up, ... in 2013.  

As her nurse, I only saw her wrapped in gauze from head to toe with a special heater over her. She was so badly burned that there wasn't any way to keep her temperature up or fluids in. Her mom and sister justifiably yelled at me when they visited and I had the television on in the background. I was trying to keep informed while working, but to them, ... they thought it would terrorize Rosa if she was still capable of hearing.

Rosa Gonzalez died at the very end of my shift, a 32 year old, single mother of a 12 year old. She had been working as a secretary on the 66th. floor of Two World Trade Center. 

I moved away from New York in late 2004, so it took me much longer to get to the memorial. My trips from Los Angeles to back East were always short and packed with family visits. Also, I would get a sick feeling whenever I went south of Canal street.

The Friday after the event, (on Sept. 14th.), it absolutely POURED rain. After the blood banks had turned us away from giving donations, ... (since there were not enough living victims to donate all that blood to), ... myself and two other RNs, packed backpacks full of supplies and headed down to the site on the only bus that seemed to be running, (subways were closed and no cars were aloud except for emergency vehicles). It would take 3 hours to get down there, only to be turned away by the military, who kept us outside the perimeter. The smell was strange. We were thinking the fires would certainly go out with the downpour of rain that day, but they burned for weeks! 

Again, survivor guilt and a feeling of complete and utter uselessness kicked in. We stopped for hot coffee. We said few words to each other... we were somewhat speechless, ... it was all in the eyes. The eyes that filled up whenever they made contact with another New Yorker... the pain, the anguish, the confusion, the horror of it all. No words, only telepathy. 

New Yorkers grieving. No words needed. Sadness incomprehensible. 

We were offered counseling for PTSD in the months after. I went because I thought it wouldn't hurt, but I felt stupid telling the therapist how awful I felt when she herself was a New York resident. She was there! There was no room for crying because we were all in the same boat. As healthcare professionals we felt as if we had to be strong. I never went again. Now? my pain, anger, and frustration at the haunting memories come out on Twitter. 

I can't stand it when a 9/11 anniversary comes and I hear people asking, "what's today's date"? Many have forgotten, many are too young to remember, many were too far away to get it on the same level as those who were present. It hurts and stings that we've been lied to and that new evidence has come to light that's being ignored. Many Americans seem to be "over it". I'm not. I want it unearthed, exposed, and prosecuted... military tribunals. I can still feel the darkness down in that area of Manhattan when I visit. The beauty of the memorial is supposed to make us feel better. People from all over the world visit, ... posing as if it's some tourist attraction. They smile for their photos while I search thousands of names for Rosa as well as my mother's cousin and my cousin's husband.        

#NeverForget ~ Sharon Bautista, R.N. ~ May 18, 2018 12:20am

Please sign the GRAND JURY PETITION to reopen inquiry into 9/11 crimes.

A committee of lawyers is working with 9/11 families... basically for free, so donate if you can.


  • Allison

    Allison New York

    This is a very difficult topic.. Thank you for the article! It is always hard for me to talk about these things, just like when I've been doing my PWSN report..

    This is a very difficult topic.. Thank you for the article! It is always hard for me to talk about these things, just like when I've been doing my PWSN report..

  • Sharon

    Sharon LA

    Thanks for your comment. Not sure you'll see my reply. I appreciate you reading it.

    Thanks for your comment.
    Not sure you'll see my reply.
    I appreciate you reading it.

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