The Boardman native was among the first wave of doctors taken to the World Trade Center site.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
With only a few hours of sleep, Boardman native Dr. Omar Lateef spent the past few days helping those injured in Tuesday's terrorist attack in Manhattan's financial district.
The 1991 Boardman High School graduate is a third-year medical resident at New York University's downtown hospital, less than a half-mile from the destroyed World Trade Center buildings.
Lateef, 28, who specializes in pulmonary and internal medicine, was making rounds at the hospital when the first plane hit just before 9 a.m. Doctors immediately rushed to the emergency room and prepared for the first wave of victims, he said.
Taken to site: Not long after the two towers collapsed into piles of rubble, Lateef was part of a team of doctors taken to the area to assist any survivors.
"It was a horrible sight. It was like a scene out of a movie. There wasn't enough time to figure out what happened; we just went down the street and tried to help. There were body parts and firemen yelling for you to go from area to area because more buildings were unstable," he said.
Many were getting trampled as people started running from unstable buildings, he said.
NYU's downtown facility, the closest hospital, eventually became the triage center where doctors checked victims and sent them to other hospitals for treatment, he said.
"In our hospital, there were 400 people seen in the first few hours. Mainly they were people with lacerations, some with chest pains and a lot of burn patients," he said.
Lateef described it as "rapid-fire medicine," often treating people quickly and moving them on to other hospitals. He saw as many as 50 patients that day, he said.
It's one of the few times patients were deferring treatment, he said.
"There were people in the emergency room saying, 'I'm not that sick, go to someone else,' " he said.
Everyone kept busy: Every available person was put to work, even a doctor vacationing from California who walked into the emergency room and offered her services, he added.
Lateef said that once the initial wave of injured were treated, he called his parents, Bari and Kauser Lateef in Boardman, to let them know he was not hurt. He continued calling all day, leaving messages on his father's cell phone.
By Friday night, most of the surviving victims had been treated. Lateef said medical personnel were on standby in case another building collapsed.
The area surrounding the hospital is like a war zone, he said, with military personnel carrying machine guns on every street corner.
All stores and restaurants were closed, and electricity is limited in buildings surrounding the hospital, he said. Lateef lives in subsidized NYU housing next to the hospital.
Will live in city: Despite the conditions and Tuesday's attack, Lateef said he plans to return to New York City permanently after he completes a three-year residency at the University of Chicago, which he will start next year.
"Some of the worst things that happen bring out the best qualities in people. There were no attitudes or egos. There were trauma surgeons sitting next to volunteers trying to figure out what to do," he said.