Major Incidents, Operations

JEMS Editor-in-Chief Reflects on 9/11

Today, I reflect back on 9/11 and the many friends that were impacted on that day—there are too many to mention all of them. They’re in my heart. There were many lives lost on 9/11, but also many lives saved due to the quick thoughts, actions and care rendered.

There are countless stories of EMS actions that took place on that fateful day which may never be heard. Many of these are detailed in our 9/11 editorial supplement. I chose this seemingly nondescript image because it reminds me of one of these stories. 

The image shows a burnt-out Crown Victoria, which EMS Deputy Chief Zach Goldfarb and his aide, EMT Mary Merced, had just placed in service that morning. 

They were so proud of their new command vehicle. They’d just packed all their boards and vests when the call came in for the World Trade Center.

They parked on the West Street highway. Zach began his command duties while Mary charted and retrieved vital information for him. Most importantly, Mary was his eyes and ears. 

It was Mary who noticed debris falling from the towers with increasing frequency. She called it to Zach’s attention. He immediately had crews move their vehicles further away from the Tower closest to them. 

Then Mary, who stood in the same spot for a long time and had an unobstructed view of the tower, advised Zach that she thought one of the towers was leaning.

Trusting his skilled EMT assistant, Zach immediately ordered everyone off the West Street Highway and into a building across the street in the financial center.

Moments after they vacated the West Street highway, the tower came down and produced the destruction you see in this photo.

The tower is nothing but a shell in the background. The walkway across West Street Highway to the financial center, the ambulances, a ladder truck and Zack and Mary’s new car are in the foreground: All destroyed.

Mary and Zach were two of many heroes that day, each of them for a different reason. Mary was able to gather, process and report important information to her commanding officer. Zach trusted her and acted upon the information she presented to him.

There were no politics, rank issues or discussions—simply trust among experienced providers and partners who knew each other well.

There’s much that could be said on a day like this, but I’ll let this photo and this brief story serve as my salute to Zach, now retired, Mary, now a paramedic, and the countless friends and colleagues who performed so valiantly that day. For me, the above image encapsulates the many unsung EMS heroes whose lives were changed forever that day, whether they were at Ground Zero, the Pentagon or the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

Read the full account of their many contributions in Courage Under Fire supplement on jems.com.