Five years ago today, I was a harried and hurried OB/GYN intern, the only intern on the OB floor. Rounds ran long because of a long patient census, and we were late getting over to Labor and Delivery to "run the board" (aka, check on the laboring patients). I had four laboring patients, three patients to see in OB triage, and a 30 week pregnant woman just involved in an MVA on the way into the ER. I was just about to check on my first labor patient when the charge nurse came out of a patient's room. "A plane just crashed into the World Trade center!" The sarcastic comments followed, ranging from jokes about air traffic control to what substance the pilot was smoking. It mildly piqued my interest, but to tell the truth, I hadn't the time to sit and ponder the significance. I was halfway through my triage and labor checks when the second plane hit. Then, we knew, this was no accident, and I, like everyone else that day, was scared about what this meant. Ever in constant motion, I caught what updates I could from the patient's TV screens, as I went about the routine business of histories and physicals on a most unusual and frightening day. My chief resident and I went together to see the MVA patient, it was merely a fender-bender, no real trauma, and we hooked her up to the labor monitor to look for contractions. She gasped, suddenly, eyes wide in disbelief, locked on the television mounted on the wall in the corner of the room. My chief and I turned, to see the mighty towers collapsing into dust and rubble. I don't know how long we sat and stared, silent.
The rest of that day is a true blur. I delivered eight babies between 9 am and 5:30 pm that day, four inductions and four natural labors. I distinctly remember one young patient, just 17, crying after the delivery, not tears of joy or even pain from labor, but of sadness and terror. I couldn't help but think that the baby boom that day was simply a surge to replace the souls so tragically lost. I think the unit had a total of 11 deliveries that day. This year, they are already five years old, nearly ready for kindergarten. In the days that followed, I was morbidly fixed to the TV and the news. My husband couldn't tear me away. I couldn't stop watching. It lasted for about 3 months, and then the shock was not nearly so fresh, and I could watch non-news programming once again. Tonight, my husband is watching the commemorative movie on television. I have no desire to see any films about that day. I don't get why five years is the magical number for it to be permissible to start turning a profit on such a terrible day in our lives and the lives of the victims. I could barely sit through the previews of United 93 without bawling. I don't need a reminder of the tragedy, as it is indelibly burned into my memory. I was fortunate that I did not lose a loved one or a close friend, and for that I am grateful. But we as a nation suffered the loss of, not only the lives of the victims and the heroes of that day (in itself a staggering loss), but the loss of life as we had so complacently come to know it. We lost innocence and we lost feeling secure, and I'm not sure that we will ever feel the same way as we did five years and one day ago. Today, I, like so many of you, will ponder in silence and return to the day when we knew things would never be the same. Today I will remember to never forget.