Local EMT Recalls Black Tuesday

Robert Wick, Al Toro, Jennifer Beckham and Bonnie Giebfried fully realized they were heading into a war zone when their Flushing Hospital ambulance unit drove through the chaos of Lower Manhattan on the morning of terrorist attacks.
What they could not predict was that they would become the victims, however fortunate, of the collapse of the World Trade Center.
"We were across the street when the first one went down," Robert Wick, an emergency medical technician with the unit, told The Queens Courier. "I dont think we spent more then five, maybe ten minutes on the scene. We didnt even have any contact with patients."
They were only yards from Ground Zero when the second tower buckled and began to fold in on itself.
"We heard the noise, looked up, and the building was coming down on us," Wick recalled.
There was nothing left to do but start running.
"I ran maybe 10 or 20 yards before the cloud [of debris] got to me. My back was to the building, so I couldnt see what was happening, but I wouldnt be able to see anyway. I couldnt see anything. I was just hoping my partners were with me."
Wick dove under the nearby sports utility vehicle"I think it was a Suburban," he saidall the while calling out to his EMT mates. He received no answer.
When the cloud dissipated somewhat, Wick climbed out from under the car and made it to the nearest building where he huddled with about a dozen of other shell-shocked survivors. While some of them were EMTs, Wick could not find anyone from his unit.
"Thats when I decided its time to come out and start calling people to find out if everyone was alright."
One after another, team members called in. Miraculously, and fortunately, all were accounted for, some with no more than grit in their eyes and a shaken psyche. Bonnie Giebfried was admitted to Jamaica Hospital with smoke inhalation, were she remained at the time this issue went into print.
"The only one we couldnt find was Al [Toro]," Wick said. "We didnt hear from him for a couple of hours. Later in the afternoon he contacted us." Apparently, Toro was buried, along with the units ambulance van, for almost an hour under the remains of the second fallen WTC tower. After he was dug out, Toro was taken across the river to the New Jersey Hospital with light injuries. The rest of the team also was treated there.
After being released from the hospital, Wick somehow caught a ride back into the City.
"I was shocked," Wick said. "I still am. But work had to be done. I felt like I could still help people."
Wicks unit was one of the eight ambulances dispatched by the MediSys Health Network-led Jamaica Hospital, Brookdale Hospital and Flushing Hospital minutes after the first tower went down. Seven made it back safe. Over 100 people from the disaster site have been treated by the three-hospital network, most for minor cuts, bruises, fractures, and smoke and dust inhalation.

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