Recollections From Dr. John Charos – Veterinarian at the World Trade Center

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Dr. Charos, DJ Kerr and her cat Precious who was rescued after 18 days from the roof of a building adjacent to the Twin Towers.


Veterinarian at the World Trade Center

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was my day off. I woke to the alarm clock tuned to a local radio talk show. During the typical morning banter, a caller was put on the air who reported the events at the World Trade Center. I flipped on the news and was, like every American, amazed at what I saw on TV. As a veterinarian, I felt helpless despite my years of training and work in critical care. Our city was paralyzed.

At 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I got a phone call and came to find out that the Suffolk County SPCA had mobilized immediately on Tuesday and had the foresight to collaborate with OEM (the Office of Emergency Management in NYC) on setting up their mobile hospital right at Ground Zero. Roy Gross and the team of dedicated animal protectors were in place to help the neighborhood pets and available for any medical need they could fill. Little did they realize how key their timing and location would be. They were in place at Ground Zero and seeking to schedule veterinarians for shifts with the Search & Rescue dogs. They had a brand new mobile hospital unit. They were stocked and staffed with officers, but needed Vets and medical personnel.

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The conditions were extreme. The dust was debilitating. Throughout the days we treated lacerations, trauma from steep falls, infected eyes, irritated ears and dehydration. Understandably, time was running out. There was a very small window in which to find survivors and the area to be searched was humongous. Spot fires and unstable footing made the dog’s work almost reckless. But the dogs were our only real hope in those conditions. When everything is turned upside down and coated with inches of silt, only a dog’s keen sense of smell would have a chance of finding a survivor. So we did whatever we needed to keep those dogs working, without compromising such brave animals. Perseverance and dedication were defined by the rescue workers during those weeks at Ground Zero.

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