When a Life Changes

By Patricia Diaz, RN

On September 11, 2001, I was traveling on the express bus when I heard screams. I did not know where or what they were about until I got to my then job on 23rd Street. When I went into my office, my assistant told me a commuter airplane had hit the world trade center. We were in shock. We hovered around the TV and then, the 2nd plane hit and we knew that we were under attack. It was a very hard day and, it was also my birthday.

Later after the buildings collapsed, I heard that they were going to have one last ferry out of New York to Staten Island. So I left my safe office and ventured out into the chaos of New York City. There was still smoke and debris in the air and it was going to be a long walk downtown. I saw people that were in a daze covered in dust, and others covered in blood. As I walked down Water Street in lower Manhattan, I saw a man’s shoe sitting by the curb amongst all the other debris. I sat down and cried because that shoe represented a human being that probably would not make it home to his love ones. It was a life changing moment for me. I was just trying to get home to my family and a lot of people weren’t going to make it home that day. It was horrifying to see and more terrifying than anything I had ever experienced. I wanted to help but I didn’t have the skills or knowledge to. I made a decision that day that changed the rest of my life.

I finally reached the ferry and boarded with all the other passengers who were just trying to get home. I sat down next to a woman who was softly crying. I asked her what was wrong and she “I just want to get home to my children”. I offered her support and a shoulder to cry on. The woman told me that when the second building collapsed, she was blown down and was slammed into a pole. She showed me her leg and you could see that she had broken it. I told her that the police were on the boat and that they could take her to the hospital. She said, “No, I need to get home to my kids.” I could not understand how that woman could even walk, but with the determination of a mother she made it home to her children.

That woman and the experience of the terrorist attacks changed my life forever. I went back to school to get my degree in nursing. It took me a couple of years but I was determined to become a registered nurse. I wanted to help people and be part of something bigger then myself. I love being a nurse, and could not see myself doing anything else. I never wavered from my decision that I made that day. There were days of doubt, wondering if my older body could handle it but, my family was right behind me pushing me. My family encouraged me to go back for my BSN which will be finished in just a couple of weeks.

Most importantly, I love going to work every day. I love when I go into a patient’s room and I am able to make them laugh and forget for a little while about their pain or discomfort. I laugh, cry and sympathize with all my patients. I see all my patients as my family and I treat them the way I want my family treated. We have many patients from all different cultures, races, and socio-economic backgrounds and I treat them all like family. I really love my work and feeling part of a team. My name is Patricia Diaz RN and “I am a Mount Sinai Nurse”.

Patricia Diaz, RN works on 9 Silver, a heavy Medical Surgical floor of The Mount Sinai Hospital.

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