‘It was a warzone,’ retired doctor on front lines remembers 9/11, 20 years later

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001.

This week, 8 News Now is sharing stories of that fateful day.

The I-Team’s Vanessa Murphy shares a personal connection in an interview with her grandfather who helped take care of some of the Sept. 11 victims in New York.

“It was a warzone,” recalls James Mazzara a retired medical doctor.

Dr. Mazzara is now 83-years-old. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was chief of Clinical Cardiology at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City.

“We were a mile and a half north of the twin towers,” he tells 8 News Now.

He was heading a fellowship program at the time, and he recalls receiving word during a teaching conference.

“The chief resident came in and said a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers,” he says.

They prepared to treat patients. The team first thought what was unfolding was an accident, but then the second plane hit the second tower.

“And that’s when things looked more ominous at the time,” Dr. Mazzara adds.

Patients arrived with trauma injuries from debris that had fallen. Some had respiratory symptoms. Many were covered in dust.

He says this continued through most of the day and he slept at the hospital that night.

“Things started to slow down and that was a sign to us that things were not looking good,” he adds.

The realization: many did not survive.

“These were innocent people, almost 3,000 non-military people who had their lives destroyed, their families changed forever,” Dr. Mazzara tells 8 News Now.

Many of those families posted notes as they searched for their loved ones hoping they would turn safe at places like St. Vincent’s

“It was a tragic time,” Dr. Mazzara recalls.

Like many New Yorkers and Americans, for Dr. Mazzara, the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 stirs up emotions and memories that are difficult to accept.

“From the floor, we were on in the hospital, we could actually see one of the towers with billowing smoke coming from it. I’ll always remember that,” he adds. “It makes you think how fragile life is. ”

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