On Sept. 11, 2001, Jodi LoDolce was working as a nurse in a trauma center in North Shore University Hospital in Long Island, N.Y. She and her coworkers were preparing to help mass numbers of victims of the World Trade Center attacks — but nobody came.
“There was just this eerie silence,” said LoDolce, who was recently appointed emergency director of Florida Hospital Flagler and for whom the approach of Sept. 11 each year is palpable. “This was an emergency room that had 50-some beds, and we were just waiting and waiting.”
The hospital was prepared for emergencies and large volumes of patients. It wasn’t ready for an emergency that would leave so many patients buried in rubble, and the rest of them trapped in the city.
“Once the buildings fell, we knew things were bad,” LoDolce said. “People cleared out the emergency room; helicopters were bringing supplies because they were expecting all these people to come in. A lot of us knew people in Manhattan, but in the ER, you just do what needs to be done.”
On that day, LoDolce kept herself busy with administrative work as she waited. She’d made it to the hospital at 11 a.m., and until around 10 that night, she didn’t see anyone except for people bringing pictures of their families and emergency workers seeking treatment.
And for most of the day, she wasn’t sure where her husband, Nick, was. He worked in Manhattan, and LoDolce had been on the phone with him after the first plane struck the World Trade Center.
“I was telling him what I was watching on the news, and we didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “And then the second plane hit, and the line went dead.”
LoDolce was due in to work, so she went. She didn’t hear from her husband until after 4 p.m., because he had to walk through downtown to find a place where he could make a call.
“Work was calling me and saying there was this disaster and everyone needed to come in,” she said. “It just comes down to responsibility. We just do what needs to be done.”
Late that night and the following day, victims were able to make it from the city and into the hospital. The hospital was busy.
“It was scary,” LoDolce said. “Nobody knew what would happen next.”
Eventually, that was what led LoDolce, a New York native, and her husband to move to Florida. After Sept. 11, peace of mind was hard to come by.
“Later, there was a power outage that they thought might be terrorist-related,” LoDolce said. “My husband was downtown in it, and we didn’t have power — and you just didn’t know. I can’t live with, every time something happens, thinking that’s it.”
LoDolce has 23 years of nursing experience. Despite the stresses of her new job, it’s something she loves. After she and her husband had kids, LoDolce took some time off, but she didn’t stay away from the hospital for long.
She transferred to the Flagler branch of Florida Hospital from the Fish Memorial campus, and is just meeting her 90-day mark at Flagler.
“I’m very fortunate,” she said. “I love working in an ER environment and working to make things better.”
Florida has become home for LoDolce, her husband, her 10-year-old daughter, Morgan, and her 8-year-old son, Matthew, but the camaraderie she found in New York hasn’t been lost.
“In the ER, people come and you just do it,” she said. “No matter what, everyone pulls together to get things done.”
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