September 11, 2001: Life Is A Continuing Lesson In Humility And Humanity

September 11, 2001 is a day that profoundly impacted all Americans. It was a day that I will never forget. Just 3 days earlier, I was inaugurated as President of the Maine Medical Association during the Association’s 148th Annual Session.

That following Tuesday was a scheduled office day for me. Nothing special or unusual. The patients were arriving as scheduled. I was prepared for a “normal day” at the office. The phones were ringing. There was the usual chatter of the patients in the waiting area. Undoubtedly, these same events were unfolding in physicians’ offices across Maine.

Suddenly everything changed with the news flashes on the television in the waiting area. Incredible! Unbelievable! Our nation was under attack. During this time, I received a phone call from a colleague about a patient she wanted to refer. We discussed the patient and decided on a plan of care. Our conversation then turned to the unfolding events in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania. And then things got worse.

My colleague informed me that two of the passengers on American Flight 11 were from our local area. She gave me their names. Those names echoed immediately through my brain. The names were those of two of my patients. I slumped back into my chair as I sat at my desk. At that moment in time, I was truly humbled. Life is a continuing lesson in humility and humanity.

Historically, the medical profession has responded nobly in times of crisis. This is especially important in today’s world, as the potential scope of disasters continues to expand. We immediately contacted the Maine Emergency Management Agency and sent out a blast call to physicians across the state. The response of Maine physicians to the call for volunteers was overwhelming. Within an hour of the call for volunteers by the Maine Medical Association, there were over one hundred Maine physicians standing in line. As the day progressed, that number grew even larger.

As a community, we need to remain vigilant and always be prepared for catastrophic events, be they terrorist attacks or natural disasters, now more than ever before. The need for preparedness spans all of our communities, from individuals to state and local organizations. We must make certain that our hospitals and communities are actively involved in disaster preparedness on a continuing basis. All of these preparations are accompanied by the fervent hope that they will never be necessary. However, these are precautions that we must take.

Fifteen years later, I remain humbled and filled with the spirit of humanity in this place we call America.

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