9/11 nurse remembers the disbelief
If you go
What: Remembering 9/11: The Power to Recover.
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7.
Where: Lake Geneva Public Library, 918 W. Main St.
Cost: The event is free, and everyone is welcome to attend. For more information, call the library at (262) 249-5299.
LAKE GENEVA The images of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are as vivid today as they were 10 years ago.
The nation can still recall the Twin Towers crumbling to the ground, or clouds of debris swallowing New Yorkers as they frantically ran through the city streets.
Zoe Woelky wants America to remember a softer side of the tragedy: recovery.
Woelky, a Lake Geneva native and volunteer nurse at ground zero, will give her first-person account of the aftermath during a presentation Wednesday at the Lake Geneva Public Library.
Woelky remembers the horror, and even the eerie silence of Times Square. Most of all, she recalls victims, some nursing broken bones, making personal sacrifices to help one another heal.
"It was a war zone," said Woelky, who has volunteered at 16 disasters as a member of the American Red Cross' National Disaster Services Human Resources. "What's amazing is what people did for other people. This is the part the enemy doesn't understand."
Woelky arrived in New York two days after the attacks. The normally vibrant Times Square was dark and mostly empty.
At ground zero, fires were still burning, she said. Dogs searched to recover victims, without much success.
"There was nobody to help," Woelky said. "People came from different directions and couldn't find people to connect with, so we helped connect people. I found that my health issues basically were with those who came back to help.
"I couldn't believe the magnitude (of the destruction). It was so huge. We don't have those buildings here, and when you see skyscrapers and then they're down, it's beyond our mental capacity."
Woelky's role as a nurse was slightly different because few victims needed immediate treatment. She helped distribute supplies or attended to those already admitted for care.
She spent most of her time listening to victims who wanted to talk about what they had been through. She plans to share those stories Wednesday.
"Just disbelief," Woelky said, describing the reactions of victims. "Not anger, or fear. Just like, 'wow.' That was an expression you heard a lot. You couldn't define what you were seeing."
Woelky also volunteered after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She saw the same generosity from people who went out of their way to care for victims and bring them basic supplies.
Photographs from 9/11 will be displayed during Woelky's program in Lake Geneva. The pictures were originally part of an exhibit in New York called "Here is New York: A Democracy of Photographs." Professionals, amateurs and emergency personnel took the photos.
Badger High School graduate Erika Alabarca helped bring the display to Lake Geneva by asking people in the community to buy reprints. They were on display at the library Feb. 14 to 17, 2002, and more than 4,000 people visited.