September 11, 2001. My most memorable day as a VNSNY employee.

lheller August 1st, 2011, 10:51 AM
Lisa Heller-Salmon
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I was a young woman and a relatively new nurse when I began working for VNSNY in 1998. My days and years past are filled with precious memories and experiences as an employee of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. All of those professional experiences transcend to my heart and spirit to become an integral part of the person, woman, mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, and nurse I have become. But THE day that stands out for me the most is a day that is full of sorrow and sadness for so many VNSNY employees, New Yorkers, Americans, and people who have been touched by the event around the world.

September Eleventh Two Thousand and One.

My life is clearly delineated into two parts separated by that clear, crisp beautiful Tuesday morning in September. I drove into the Brooklyn VNSNY office from my home in Queens listening to Howard Stern (yes, I like Howard Stern) on the radio as per my usual routine. He announced that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. I was parking my car and said to myself “how could that happen, what a horrible accident.” As I walked into the office, it became increasingly clear that it was not an accident. I don’t need to recount the details of the day as you all know them. Volunteers were sought to go triage victims of the attack and so I went along with many of my colleagues. I wore my VNSNY issued navy blue sweater so I could be easily identified among the throngs of people, police and firefighters milling about in what seemed to be a fugue. I wound up at Stuyvesant High School across the street from the World Trade Center where we prepared and waited for victims. Mostly what I did that day was wash the eyes out of the firefighters in order to send them back out for what would become months of searching and removing debris from Ground Zero.

What I saw in those brave men when I looked into their eyes was the most profound, childlike sadness and fear I had ever seen and have not seen since. They were desperate and determined along with the police officers and many, many other heroic rescue workers to find and help their fellow citizens and fallen comrades. Late that night I left the triage site and walked alone up the West Side Highway to a friend’s house on 24th Street. I left a piece of my soul, many, many prayers, and my VNSNY navy blue sweater there.

Here I sit reflective almost ten years later. I have since lost over 140lbs, finished my baccalaureate degree, met my future husband Robbie, started pursuing my masters degree in public health, got married, left VNSNY, had my precious daughter Madeline Grace, bought a house, and proudly returned to VNSNY and now once again I am working in the great city of Brooklyn.

I ask my self how has the experience of that day as a VNSNY employee changed me?

I remember and pray for those lost and their families’ everyday.

I have infinite gratitude that is beyond the use of words that I have life and the ability to profoundly appreciate it.

I strive to feel more of the love in the world and give more love everyday.

I know this can come off as hokey and trying to wrap up a tragic event into a “feel good” message, but the absolute truth is that I am forever changed…

and I have never replaced that navy blue sweater…

Peace,                                                                                                                                         Lisa HS 8.1.11

Dedicated to Louis Modafferi Battalion Chief, his family and all of his brothers at Rescue 5.


  • That was very touching! I think 911 has changed all of our lives. We look at things differently and appreciate more of the “small” things…the things that really matter most. I started working for VNS on Sept 10th and was at the orientation on 70th St. My nephew met me and we stayed together until the evening when we were able to get on a train. The next day I stayed home with my children who were sooo frightened. My son was 13 and my dtr was 11. I just want to say the VNS did not pay me for the day I took off 9/12! IMAGINE! Haha! Anyway, it was nice of you to share your personal experience.

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