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9/11/01: Treating the victims

People make their way amid debris from the

People make their way amid debris from the World Trade Center in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001. In one of the most horrifying attacks ever against the United States, terrorists crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center in a deadly series of blows that brought down the twin 110-story towers. Credit: AP

All area hospitals were called into action to deal with yesterday's World Trade Center terrorist attack.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said yesterday evening that at least 2,100 people had been injured, with about 600 taken to hospitals by midafternoon. Officials said the numbers would rise.

"It's a catastrophe of unparalleled proportions," said Eric Manheimer, medical director of Bellevue Hospital Center, as ambulances rushed in with injured victims.

Some 1,500 victims - injured but able to walk - were ferried from the tip of Manhattan to Jersey City, where they were picked up by waiting ambulances, said Pat Smith, a spokesman for NY Waterways.

Officials said sightseeing boats and dinner-cruise lines also were pressed into service to carry victims to New Jersey hospitals.

Many victims were rushed to New York University Hospital, which has the only emergency room south of 13th Street.

"We are trying to respond as rapidly as we can," said spokeswoman Kathleen Hill Zichz, who reported at least three fatalities as of late afternoon.

She said the hospital had practiced for such a tragedy only two weeks ago. Yesterday, the hospital's cafeteria had been converted into a triage area.

Jamaica Hospital Medical Center said many of the patients taken there were psychologically traumatized but not physically injured.

At midday, the hospital dispatched its two mobile medical vans to Manhattan, staffed with 15 doctors and nurses and equipped with syringes, intravenous drip tubing, defibrillators and pain medications.

Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn received 19 patients suffering from smoke and dust inhalation.

At least two dozen people were taken to Roosevelt Hospital, where a surgical team was waiting outside. Gurneys and cots were set up in the hallways and cafeteria.

St. Luke's Hospital had taken in an estimated 70 people by 12:45 p.m. No fatalities were reported there.

More than 135 victims were taken to Beth Israel Medical Center, with all but six or eight treated for smoke inhalation and released. The people who were admitted were being treated in the intensive care unit, mostly for severe respiratory problems.

As of early evening, only 319 patients had arrived at St. Vincents Hospital and Medical Center; among them were 55 who were critically injured and an estimated 45 police and firefighters. Three patients died.

But in the afternoon, many doctors at St. Vincents were seen standing around outside, waiting for additional patients. "It's eerie because they're expecting all these people, and they're not coming," said a psychiatrist who didn't want to be identified.

George Neuman, anesthesiology chairman, said, "We haven't been as busy as we hope to be. Unfortunately, most of the people are still downtown."

Dr. Lenny Bakalchuk said most of the critically injured are suffering severe burns, cardiac arrest and smoke inhalation. "Tomorrow we expect to get more crush injuries."

Gov. George Pataki spoke to some of the victims of the attack, at St. Vincents.

"Their stories are very moving. Thank God they're here, but we have a lot of people who aren't here.

"We're not going to give in to terrorism," he said. "We're going to do what we can to help the families and rebuild this city."

In addition to city hospitals, every hospital on Long Island was on alert, preparing to take care of victims.

Peter Sullivan, president of the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council, said all Long Island hospitals had been requested by the New York State Health Department to provide support, equipment and care. "Hospitals are freeing up the beds" as much as possible to make way for the victims, he said. Patients who could possibly be discharged were being moved out.

North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System sent 21 ambulances into the city. The ambulances first moved victims to city hospitals, including North Shore University Hospital in Forest Hills, and later were expected to take victims to Long Island hospitals.

"We are taking very prudent steps to make room," said Michael Dowling, president of the North Shore system. "We're just taking all the necessary steps to do everything we can to be completely prepared."

The Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow sent three ambulances into the city and was expecting to receive victims in its burn unit.

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