September 07, 2021 Misc One Health

AMC Remembers 9/11 Twenty Years Later

A search and rescue dog and its handler at Ground Zero

AMC Remembers 9/11 Twenty Years Later

My memories of 9/11 match those represented at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. For me, the most poignant object displayed at the museum is an art installation entitled “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on that September Morning.” Each blue square in the artwork is a different shade, one for each life lost that day and in the 1993 bombing. Those of us who were in New York City on September 11, 2001 remember a glorious blue-skyed morning but, as the artwork suggests, each of us remembers the day a little differently.

A Normal Morning at AMC

The day started normally with an 8am staff meeting but, towards the end of the meeting, pagers and phones started chirping after the first tower was hit. By the time the meeting ended, it was clear the day was no longer normal. Clients cancelled appointments. New York City became eerily quiet. All transportation was halted, and the streets were empty, except for the sounds of emergency vehicle sirens and military jets overhead.

A Tragedy that Touched All New Yorkers

No one in New York City was untouched by the events of 9/11. My son’s nursery school classmate lost a father, a client’s son lost a fiancé and the AMC family came within a moment of losing a member. One AMC employee’s significant other worked in the World Trade Center complex. After the towers fell, communication was hampered by the loss of the cellphone antennae on the WTC. AMC held its collective breath, until around lunchtime. It took the significant other that long to walk the 5 miles from lower Manhattan to AMC. A late start to the day prevented him from being in the complex when the towers were hit, saving his life.

AMC’s First Responders

K9 Kaiser, AMC’s 2011 Top Dog honoree

Moments after the first tower fell, AMC’s Dr. Phil Fox received a call from an NYPD Police Lieutenant overseeing the NYPD Emergency Service Unit canines. The lieutenant told Dr. Fox that dogs required on-site veterinary care for smoke inhalation, eye irritation, coughing and breathing difficulties. Without hesitation, an AMC team packed up supplies and headed downtown, somehow making their way through roadblocks, military blockades and utter chaos to Stuyvesant High School, where military personnel had set up the first triage station. Dr. Fox and his team stayed late into the night caring for the canine heroes, walking back to AMC at 4am the next morning.

For the next five years, Dr. Fox continued to monitor the NYPD working dogs that assisted in relief efforts that day, publishing a study on the short- and long-term health effects of their work. Despite some minor and acute issues due to smoke and particulate inhalation, the study fortunately found no serious long-term negative side effects from their work that day.

A Profound Memory of the Human-Animal Bond

While Dr. Fox and his team were able to treat most of search and rescue animals on site at Stuyvesant High School, one dog needed to be transported to AMC for additional care and monitoring. The following story comes from Theresa Kilichowski, an LVT working in the ICU that evening:

The dog had fallen into a pit of debris and ash while searching, and they transported him and his human partner to AMC via ambulance. We put the dog on IV fluids and some pain meds. We got him tucked into a run cage in ICU, on top of blankets on the cage rack. Both he and his human partner were covered in soot and grime from the pile. I offered his human use of our showers, but he would not leave his partner, he just wanted to sit in the cage with him. I gave the human a big blanket for under his butt – you know how uncomfortable sitting in a cage rack can be. I came back around to check on my patient and I found his human had put the extra blanket on his partner to make sure he was comfortable. So I went and got a few more blankets and made him a pillow. A while later I found him sleeping with the dog, curled up next to him. It was probably the most profound moment of my life, watching these two heroes sleeping in a dog run together.

On this 20th anniversary of September 11th, we remember those who lost their lives and thank the valiant first responders, including our own team members, who selflessly heeded the call to serve their fellow humans and animal companions. We are forever grateful.

Photo Gallery

Visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website for more photos.

Tags: 9/11, emergency, FDNY, First Responders, Health Heroes, NYC, NYPD, research, Search and Rescue, September 11th, veterinary research, working dog, Working Dogs,

Related Posts

  • Misc
    A K9 search and rescue team on 9/11
    September 09, 2011

    9/11: Ten Years Later

    Learn More
  • Misc
    The Animal Medical Center's Dr. Heather Brausa conducts an educational seminar for NYPD K9 officers
    December 04, 2019

    #GivingTuesday 2019: AMC gives all year long

    Learn More