Memories of 9/11

NMDMAT Team on the Front Lines

The Twin Towers had fallen three weeks earlier, but on the ground the raw emotion, despair and destruction were still fresh.

Paul B. Roth, MD, MS, The University of New Mexico's Chancellor for Health Sciences, was team commander, leading the New Mexico Disaster Medical Assistance Team (NMDMAT) into the rubble of the 9/11 terror attacks on both New York and at the Pentagon.

"No matter how much time passes, I can still picture Ground Zero in vivid detail," Roth says. "Seventeen years later, I can close my eyes and I am right there again."

Roth, who founded the NMDMAT team in the 1980s, and 34 doctors, nurses and EMTs treated first responders and workers at the site as they sifted through the rubble of the two massive World Trade Center towers.

The team not only treated cuts and broken bones, but also provided veterinary services for rescue dogs that burned their paws in the smoldering debris. Some of the most common symptoms the team treated were just a glimpse of the future complications.

"We saw several lung irritation conditions," Roth says. "There was so much dust and debris, it was everywhere and no matter the precautions, people were breathing it in as they worked in the area."

Thousands of first responders would go on to suffer from health problems directly related to toxins and smoke they inhaled at the site.

"This was a one-day attack, but make no mistake about it, this was a long-lasting attack," Roth says. "Every year I think about those lives lost, the families they left behind, the workers at Ground Zero and every American whose pride in who we are was renewed out of this tragedy.

"I am still grateful for the 34 faculty members on the NMDMAT team who treated those at Ground Zero and I ask all our faculty, staff and students to take a moment and think about the incredible sacrifice of those in the 9/11 attack."

To read more about Roth's experience, check out this article from the Albuquerque Journal.

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