An Eyewitness Account

Dr. Leon Greene is a friend and Associate of Action International Ministries. He writes the following from New York City. I am sending it to encourage you as you pray.—Doug Nichols

To all my friends:

Please forgive another note from me — you're probably tired of them by now. Many of you know that I was scheduled for a meeting in New York City on September 10-11. I was present during the disaster that befell that city, and a even few of you were with me as we watched the devastation unfold. I was so moved by what I saw that I wanted to report to you not only on my well-being, but to attempt to paint the images that are now imprinted forever on my memory.

You've no doubt seen enough video clips of the disaster and heard enough reports to saturate your comprehension. My experience revealed an entirely different dimension of the tragedy. I was in New York attending a meeting of Emergency Physicians, Nurses, and Paramedics. Soon after the collapse of the second tower we were deployed as a team to "ground zero," about four blocks from World Trade Center Building 7, which itself collapsed about 5 hours after our arrival on scene. Twenty-two of our group triaged patients and provided medical support to the New York City Police and Fire Department. Our contribution was very small. Nevertheless, here are my impressions, poured out in a rather staccato flight of images:

The enormity of the destruction was exceeded only by the summed human courage and spirit of the victims. The few deranged terrorists were hopelessly outnumbered by the hundreds of thousands of common, everyday people responding in the only way they knew—with love and compassion.

As our team loaded on a bus to go into Manhattan, I looked upward. Over the courthouse across the street, the flag had already been lowered to half-staff. A worker there knew his job and had responded as only he could.

The owners and managers of the 40 story building in front of which we set up our casualty station also were single-minded: give the medical team and the police and firefighters whatever they needed or wanted. Tables and chairs were brought outside and used for patients; easels and coat racks were IV poles; any food in the building was ours; medical equipment and supplies were freely removed from a nurses' station in the building. Blankets and pillows appeared almost miraculously.

A maintenance crew set up floodlights outside the building for our "hospital." Other maintenance engineers became food service workers.

People brought bandages and medications from their own medicine cabinets in their apartments to give to our team.

A doctor needed a bicycle to travel to a triage staging area. A local bicycle merchant gave him one of his new models. The doctor told him, "I don't know when—or if—I'll be able to return it." The shop owner said, "Don't worry about it."

When you asked New Yorkers where to locate something, they wouldn't tell you—they would take you.

"Reasonable" replaced "legal." If it was needed, you could, and should, do it.

Paramedic crews from New Jersey arrived quickly as though their next door neighbors had been injured—and they had.

Injured firemen and police had only one thought as they were being treated - returning to help their colleagues.

Tearful firefighters told us, "Don't call us heroes. We're only doing our job."

Volunteers to help came out of the woodwork (like us, I guess): "I'm a dentist. Can I help?" "I'm a nurse. Can I help?" "I'm a psychologist. Can I help?" "I'm a CNA. Can I help?" "I don't have any medical skills. I can write, and I speak Spanish. Can I help?" "I'm strong and willing. Can I help?"

Every time a group of more than 5-10 police or firefighters walked past our intersection or down the street, onlookers applauded.

A man driving a truck loaded with bottled water stopped at our medical station, unloaded his entire truckload of water, and drove away without a word being spoken to us.

As the World Trade Center Building 7 collapsed 4 blocks away and sprayed its debris toward our station, some people panicked and ran, and some fell to the sidewalk. But others stopped to help them to their feet to avoid being trampled by the crowd.

Acts of heroism were performed as if routine.

A homeless man spent nearly 5 hours at our intersection directing traffic - very successfully.

Back at our hotel—a Marriott, by the way—the building was opened for tired and injured people evacuating Manhattan by foot. A large meeting room ("Capacity—2019") became a shelter. Coffee, water, and juice appeared. Food (the good stuff, too—including tortes and pecan pie) came from the kitchen. Blankets, pillows, and towels were provided. A first aid station was set up by some of our team. They even allowed us to establish a blood donation center with the help of local blood bank officials (not exactly "legal," but certainly "reasonable"). Furthermore, the Marriott staff even brought four refrigerators into the first aid room for the donated blood. At that, hundreds of donors had to be turned away.

The human spirit—an element of "common grace"—prevailed in hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers' lives. News reporters want to create scorecards that tally only bodies. That's the wrong way to count.

Serving until His return,
Leon Greene