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The Urge to Help: One Nurse's Venture to Ground Zero on Sept. 11

Yvonne Cook is frustrated she couldn't do more to help, but she knew Manhattan was where she needed to be on 9/11.

When she saw the planes crash into the World Trade Center on television, Yvonne Cook knew what she needed to do.

“I felt an instant pull that I had to get out there,” Cook, a Massapequa resident who works in home care for , said. “I just didn’t know who to contact.”

Cook later heard a call on the radio for doctors and nurses to report to Glen Cove to sign up to help in the city, but by the time she got there, her assistance was no longer needed.

“When they told us they didn’t need anymore people, I knew that I still had to get down there,” she said.

Cook and another nurse joined together to drive into Manhattan. While on the Long Island Expressway, they were stopped at multiple police checkpoints, although officers let them through, and they eventually made their way to Ground Zero.

“We were lucky to get there,” Cook said. “We just wanted to help.”

When the two nurses arrived, they ventured around to see if they could be of assistance to paramedics. For a brief time, Cook helped clean out the eyes of firefighters who didn’t use their goggles due to the lack of visibility during the searches.

“Their eyes were so red and bloodshot from everything that was in the air,” Cook said.

All Cook had was a mask that she got from a nearby ambulance, but she continued down the streets of Manhattan, although by the time she got there, most of the triage work that needed to be done was complete. Cook said that everyone was in “full recovery mode.” She continued to venture through nearby streets, and she couldn’t understand why so many emergency personnel were just waiting idly.

“I was amazed by the amount of firemen and police in one spot,” she said. “I couldn’t understand why everyone was just standing around, and then it hit me that they were waiting for recovery to find more people that were buried.”

Cook became frustrated that she couldn’t be of more assistance, because, from that point on, rescuers worked day and night to try to find more people under the rubble.

“It was very difficult for me not to be able to do more,” Cook said. “Nothing could be done until they found the other people.”

Cook is proud of how people came together in the wake of Sept. 11, but she stressed that the willingness to help others should remain even when not in a time of crisis.

“I have even more compassion for people, and feel more the need to help others,” Cook said. “When that happened, the world came together, but you should never stop helping people in need.”

Editor's Note: Yvonne Cook took firsthand photos on Sept. 11, 2001 that have never been published. Check back on Friday for a full gallery of those photos on Patch.

Barbara Landman jacobson September 09, 2011 at 11:42 AM
She is my cousin and is a very good hearted person. I love u for doing ur best under those circumstances. Cousin Barbara. We will never forget!
Barbara Landman jacobson September 09, 2011 at 11:44 AM
She is my cousin and is a very good hearted person. I love u for doing ur best under those difficult circumstances. We will never forget! Live cousin Barbara from Boca raton florida

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