September 19, 2001

C.U. Medical Students Assist World Trade Center Rescue Efforts

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More than one week after the tragedy that led to the collapse of the World Trade Center, Cornell medical school students and physicians are working around the clock to aid in the rescue efforts.

“A heroic and courageous effort is going on,” said Myrna A. Manners, vice provost for public affairs of the Joan and Sanford I. Weill ’55 Medical College.

But many people are frustrated that they cannot do more to help, she added. Despite the magnitude of the destruction, very few volunteers have been needed.

The New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, which is associated with Cornell, has treated more than 500 patients from the tragedy.

But the hospitals are staffed to accommodate more than twice that number of patients, according to Manners.

“Many people are still missing,” she said, adding that there is always hope more survivors will be found in the midst of the devastation, although the prospects are growing dimmer.

Lisa Staiano-Coico, senior associate dean for research at the medical school, said it was touching how quickly the rescue efforts got underway after the collapse of the Twin Towers.

“Naturally, the first reactions were shock and horror,” Staiano-Coico said, remembering the reports about the destruction in lower Manhattan that reached the medical school on the upper east side on the morning of Sept. 11. “But then, very quickly, it was really amazingly wonderful how everyone mobilized to volunteer.”

Cornell medical and graduate students organized themselves to come in shifts to the emergency room to see if any volunteers were needed. Others collected water, clothing and supplies for the rescue workers.

Physicians at the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center of the medical school cared for more than 25 patients.

Hospital workers and students also served directly at the Ground Zero recovery site.

Seven ambulances from the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System were crushed in the process. Three paramedics are missing.

“The chances of recovering any live human beings are very, very small now, given the amount of time and the condition of the site,” Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said at a news conference yesterday, as seen in The New York Times.

Giuliani said 218 bodies had been recovered from the devastation, and 152 of them had been identified. The number of missing people is officially 5,422.

Since the attacks on the World Trade Center, most of the effort has focused on looking for survivors. But Giuliani said yesterday that recovery efforts will now be emphasized.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re still not trying just as hard as we would if we had more substantial hope,” he said in his speech.

Since the disaster, only five survivors have been pulled from the rubble of the collapsed towers.

About 1,200 firefighters, more than 100 police officers and 100 correction officers from cities across the country are being used at any given time in the search and rescue operation, Giuliani said.

The rescue efforts brought out the best in New Yorkers, Staiano-Coico said.

“People came out of the woodwork to volunteer and help in any way they could,” she said. “It was heart-warming to see people rising beyond their own grief and shock to make themselves available.”

Archived article by Jennifer Roberts