COVID-19 Updates from Dr. Smith: 9/11/21
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. Craig Smith, Chair of the Department of Surgery, sends updates to faculty and staff about pandemic response and priorities. Stay up to date with us.
I write on a morning that competes, eerily, for natural beauty with the same morning twenty years ago. Yesterday Tasnim Raza shared a simple, two-paragraph email from his brother Abbas, written on 9/12/2001. It begins:
As time elapses, I am more clearly able to identify and articulate what it is that has been making me so sad about this attack. It is this: some cities do not belong to any particular country but are treasures for all people; cosmopolitan and international by nature, they are the repositories of our shared world culture and artistic production, testaments to what is common and binding among diverse peoples, and sources of creative energy. They come to stand for our notions of community and brotherhood.
I can’t possibly improve on that description of the place that has become my city, too, and thought perhaps I should keep quiet today.
Then I made rounds this morning in the ICU and visited a patient of mine who is struggling to recover from a very difficult operation. On my commute I listened to NPR using 9/11 to pick scabs off our national character. Perhaps that reminded me that my patient was a 9/11 first-responder, whose ground-zero exposure undoubtedly contributed to the damage already done by radiation treatment of a childhood lymphoma. Like so many similar professionals who had a dangerous job to do, he probably exposed himself to the hazards of ground zero without dwelling on the personal consequences. I’m sure he would have been granted a medical waiver, if he’d asked for one. He and everyone like him was there to “stand for our notions of community and brotherhood” that so prevailed in the early response to that day. He was just another guy, doing what he could for something larger than himself.
How could that not remind me of what so many of you did, and are still doing, in response to the Covid pandemic? In March of 2020 you threw yourselves into the front lines, into that “tumult in the clouds,” without dwelling on personal consequences. You weren’t doing your jobs, you were doing whatever you could for something greater than yourselves. We’ll never forget.
Craig R. Smith, MD
Chair, Department of Surgery