What 9/11 Survivors and First Responders Have Taught Us About Public Health in the 20 Years Since the Attacks
Dr. David Prezant was knocked fully airborne at 9:59 on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. He didn’t see the impact coming, but he felt it when it hit—and it nearly killed him. Little more than an hour earlier, Prezant, then the deputy chief medical officer of the Fire Department of New York, was headed for his usual workplace at the FDNY’s Office of Medical Affairs, just across the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn. He had already heard that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, and he reckoned that it was an accident. By the time he reached his office, however, the South Tower had been struck too, and it was clear the country was under attack. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Prezant raced to the Trade Center site and took a position outside the South Tower, along with firefighters, emergency medical services workers and other first responders, preparing to triage the injured as they emerged from the building. But quickly, their position became too dangerous to hold, with flaming debris—and eventually bodies—falling from overhead. Prezant and the others decided to assume a new spot a safe distance from the building on nearby West Street, but no sooner had they turned to go than the tower slumped downward. The force of the collapse slammed Prezant in the back, lifted him off his feet and hurled him across West Street, dropping him at the foot of a pedestrian bridge. “The middle of the bridge collapsed,” says P...
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