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Montana VA director recounts 9/11, seeing Tower 1 fall

Twin Towers New York 9/11 Sept. 11
Posted at 5:51 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 20:31:22-04

HELENA — Dr. Judy Hayman, current director of the Montana VA Health Care System, was working as a neuropsychologist for Jamaica Hospital in Queens, New York on September 11, 2001. That morning she received a phone call from her husband who told her a plane hit the One World Trade Center Tower.

She and a group of others gather on the fifth floor of the hospital.

“Just kind of watching and having a conversation when the second plane hit so of course at that point it was starting to sink in that this wasn't just a freak accident that there certainly was more going on,” said Hayman.

It was then she saw the fire consumed tower begin to give way.

“We're all standing around again, watching when the 1st Tower collapsed, and I think the 20th anniversary is making this more emotional for me and for everybody else but I don't know that I can articulate I think it was shocking,” said Hayman.

As she stood there with other nurses and doctors, they were told by hospital staff to expect to be attending to causalities all night, but then were told to be off at 7 p.m. and be back promptly in the morning.

As Hayman drove back into New York City from New Jersey on September 12, she said the city seemed unrecognizable.

“I think it's kind of started sinking in when all the exits were blocked with tanks and soldiers in full tactical gear, automatic weapons. I remember having this eerie feeling of like am I in the United States,” said Hayman.

Hayman remembers how quiet New York City was after the attacks,

"Once they shut down all the airports, the only air traffic in Manhattan was F-16's circling, so from the fifth floor of the building where I worked, I could look out and see the pilots as they flew by, and I remember the silence because in New York there are lots of planes," said Hayman.

Today, Hayman works for the Montana Veterans Affairs Health Care System as Executive Director and says the impact of the 20th anniversary of the attacks is felt among her staff.

“A lot of our staff signed up on September 12th because of what happened so, we're very thankful for that,” said Hayman.