LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) - First responders will be recognized in the 5th annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk event.
Doctors may not be first on the scene, but they're certainly among the first responders to care for the injured in a tragedy. A Lexington Medical Center physician was working in a New York City hospital during the horrific terrorist attack. But 16 years later, the memories are still fresh.
Dr. Adam Lazzarini is an orthopedic surgeon at Lexington Medical Center, specializing in hip and knee surgery. He did his surgical residency at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York and had an open view of the twin towers and would sit on the front steps to have his lunch, viewing the Twin Towers.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Lazzarini was in the middle of performing a spine surgery.
"And the first news came in. I think we actually said, 'Well that's silly. Why would someone do that?' We were thinking it was an accident. And then we figured out pretty quickly when the second one hit and then they told us it was airliners and that doesn't just happen so we knew that something was up," Lazzarini said.
Lazzarini's mom had been visiting him – and was on a flight home to California that morning. The doctor spent hours not knowing if his mom was on one of the hijacked planes and he had little time to worry about it.
Dr. Lazzarini and other surgeons actually had to ask the nurses to quit giving them updates because their focus was being taken off their patients.
In the days and weeks after the attacks, Dr. Lazzarini performed operations on first responders and countless workers who suffered injuries while looking for bodies in the rubble and clearing debris.
"We were treating some first responders but also workmen who were falling in the rubble," he said. "They called it the pile and it was extremely hazardous so a lot of ankle fractures, arm fractures and they can be pretty significant. And for months and months, we were treating lots of those injuries."
Besides the sights his eyes took in, the smells of that day and the days following are just as vivid.
"It is burning concrete and there's no smell to it that I've never experienced before and it went on for months and months. And the smoke and the flames underground just continued," Lazzarini said.
And every day on his way to work, Dr. Lazzarini would walk by that now well-known wall that held pictures of the missing. It was part of St. Vincent's structure. Families were desperate to find their loved ones and put pictured on the wall in hopes they were still out there - alive. The doctor says good came from bad as New Yorkers came together.
"It was all for one and one for all and not only the first responders but also everyone! Restaurant owners opened up their restaurants, free food," he said. "They would cater to everyone. So that coming together was unprecedented. It was everyone from every walk of life no matter what stage of life they came from, everyone was on the same team."