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article imageNew York City's paramedics, forgotten first responders of 9/11 Special

By KJ Mullins     Sep 7, 2011 in World
Toronto - When we think about the first responders during the attack in New York City on September 11, 2001 there's one group that is often left off: the paramedics that cared for the hurt and scared that day.
Toronto EMS Paramedic L3, Roberta Scott, will be in New York City this weekend to represent the Ontario Paramedic Association honouring those that served that day, many of whom giving their very lives.
Like many of us Scott watched from her television as the towers fell. Her immediate fear was for the paramedics at Ground Zero that day, knowing that they would be at the foot of the towers waiting to help the wounded. Scott said in a phone interview that she had gone out to breakfast with her crew that fateful morning after their shift had ended. They all went home without knowing what was taking place in New York City. When she arrived at home she found out about the terrorist act and watched the towers fall.
"I knew where the EMS (they are called EMT's in New York) would be. Right at the foot of the towers, ready to treat those escaping and wounded," Scott said remembering that moment, "I was scared that no one would have survived that."
In 2002 she traveled to New York City with a friend and co-worker, Mary, for the 1st anniversary meeting many of the EMT/Paramedics that had been at Ground Zero a year before. She felt the need to honour her EMS brothers and sisters in New York City that day. She didn't know anyone from the service in New York City. When she approached some paramedics in an ambulance they were shocked that she had come down. No one was honouring the service that they had given and had not been invited to any of the ceremonies.
Paramedics often feel left out when it comes to public recognition. They have the smallest numbers generally. In Toronto there are about 5,710 uniformed police officers, 3,100 firefighters and just 850 EMS.
In New York City there are about 34,500 police officers, 11,000 firefighters and just 3,300 paramedics. On September 11, 2001 36 paramedics perished at the World Trade Towers.
"I was invited to go with the crew to a local bar to honour their co-workers that night," Scott said. She met about 35 members of the NYC EMT then and has kept in contact with them since. Their courage and stories of the devastation have stayed with her.
One of those the paramedics were honouring was a 23-year-old single mother who left behind an eight-year-old son.
One of those who had survived was at the foot of the towers when it started to collapse. He had to run for his life leaving behind a victim who was immobilized. He has never been able to return to his post.
One paramedic was working at the tower's base treating those escaping while knowing his brother was somewhere above him in the building. His brother would never make it out.
Scott said that for the paramedics at Ground Zero one of the hardest realizations was that there were so few survivors.
"When we think about going to a scene like Ground Zero we expect that it will be hard to treat so many wounded. On September 11, 2001 they expected so many but there were so few," Scott said sadly.
It's now ten years later and it saddens Scott that there is little coverage about the Paramedics that worked that day.
"I'm amazed by those dedicated men and women in New York City on how they went on and went back to work the next day. They did and do their thing. These men and women are some of the most wonderful and kind people you will ever meet," she said.
Scott, a 25-year veteran of the Toronto EMS, is packing her bags tonight and leaving on a plane tomorrow with another EMS from Toronto and a group of police to represent the Ontario Paramedic Association at whatever ceremony they can attend in New York City. The paramedics, like the other first responders, are not being allowed to be part of the official ceremony at Ground Zero.
I asked her how her New York City paramedic friends felt about not being asked to be part of the ceremony.
"My EMS friend George said that the public is outraged about that decision but that the paramedics are used to it," Scott said sighing, "Paramedics rarely get any press."
This story will continue next week after Scott returns to Toronto. She has promised an interview on her thoughts at Ground Zero.
This article is part of Digital Journal's project to remember September 11. If you have a story to tell, join us on Facebook and Twitter, and post your memories to Digital Journal. Full details on how to participate can be found here. You can also read other submissions on our September 11 Anniversary page.
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