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An entire decade has passed since September 11, 2001. The ten-year anniversary provides an opportunity for VNSNY, along with the rest of the world, to reflect on and commemorate that fateful day, but also to feel proud. Amidst the terror, confusion and personal loss, VNSNY social workers, therapists, and home health aides came together to support their patients, their communities, their broken city, and each other in every way they could.
Many of these staff members are still with VNSNY today and were willing to revisit and share their experiences of the days and weeks after 9-11.
“Shock and disbelief.” That’s what Vince Corso, VNSNY’s Spiritual Care and Bereavement Care Manager, remembers feeling as the reality of what had occurred began to sink in. But neither Vince, nor his team, allowed themselves to be paralyzed by the fear and devastation that was gripping the country. Instead, their first reaction was to identify and reach out to the 24 VNSNY staff members who had lost someone and set up a series of support groups. Working together with Community Mental Health, Vince says, “We went around the boroughs and just ran sessions to help people, with no agenda, just to really assist people in processing their feelings.” As a seasoned social worker in hospice, Vince was accustomed to dealing with grief. But still, this was something else. “Grief is one thing,” says Vince. “But grief at a national level strikes you. We thought we were untouchable and invulnerable, and now, we knew we were vulnerable.”
In 2001, Registered Nurse Michael Soccio regularly rode his bike all over the city to see patients. And the morning of September 11 began like any other day. Michael arrived at work on his bike and was at the office when the planes hit. When Ginny Field asked if any nurses wanted to volunteer to work triage, Michael immediately said he would go and sped off downtown on his bike. After racing past barricades, Michael helped to set up triage units at two different locations. When no one had been brought in by 8 pm, volunteers accepted the devastating fact that there were no patients to treat. In the weeks and months that followed, Michael says, “We wound up getting a lot of patients who were affected or in the buildings. We had many patients who were burn victims or who had wounds, people who were hospitalized that day and then came on to service once they returned home.” One patient was a young man who happened to live on Michael’s block. Michael went to see him for a month to treat his wounds. “I think it’s ironic that we couldn't necessarily help anybody on that specific day, but then, as the weeks followed, we did help a lot of people.”
Like the other staffers, Amy Mung and her nurses sprang into action immediately on September 11, rushing downtown to set up triage units and desperately trying to reach their patients. Over the weeks that followed, Amy and her team worked tirelessly. Reminiscent of VNSNY’s first nurses who walked across rooftops on the Lower East Side, VNSNY’s nurses and aides did anything they could to ensure the well-being of their patients. Amy echoes sentiments expressed by many of her colleagues, explaining how the nurses went “above and beyond.” With many of the downtown pharmacies closed, nurses walked to Midtown and back again to make sure all patients received the medications they so critically needed.
Though looking back can be painful, “Anniversaries are actually good things,” Vince explains. “We tell people in hospice that anniversaries are significant events. What’s important for us who were in the city, as employees and individuals, is to look back at September 11 and really remember and honor the people who've died. We have to acknowledge that this event had an impact on us. And acknowledge that it might still have an impact and try to develop a sense of peace about it.”
To find out how VNSNY can help you care for your family member, please call 1-800-675-0391.