Emergency Medical Bag Tells Intertwined Story of Two Female First Responders

Juana Lomi wears her uniform and stands next to her bag as she poses for a photo for Joe McNally’s “Faces of Ground Zero.”
A portrait of Juana Lomi from Joe McNally's Faces of Ground Zero. Photo courtesy of Joe McNally.

Women responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with purpose, valor and compassion, using their skills and expertise as police officers, firefighters and medical professionals to save lives. The stories of two emergency medical workers, each also a mother and of Dominican heritage, reveal the complex workings of fate that morning.

Among the first on scene at the World trade Center was paramedic Juana Lomi. Standing outside NYU Downtown Hospital, Lomi witnessed the passage of hijacked Flight 11 flying low overhead and felt the ground rumble as the plane struck the North Tower. Lomi and her partner immediately drove to the scene and parked their ambulance near the North Tower.

Inside the ambulance was a red emergency medical bag, stocked with supplies that would be needed to treat the injured. Separately, after hearing that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, MetroCare EMT Yamel Merino and her partner drove downtown from the Bronx in their ambulance. They reported to a triage area near the South Tower, which had been struck by another hijacked airplane by the time they arrived on scene.

As the streets filled with steel and broken glass, Lomi, Merino and their partners assisted the injured, the traumatized and those attempting to flee the escalating disaster. Merino was killed in the collapse of the South Tower. Lomi heard the building collapsing from her post near the North Tower. She remained on duty, finding shelter when the North Tower fell.

Later that fall, Lomi told photographer Joe McNally what she had seen, heard and felt on the morning of 9/11 and in the days that followed. McNally had invited her to be part of his series of life-size Polaroid portraits called Faces of Ground Zero.

In McNally’s photograph, Lomi wears her paramedic uniform. At her feet is the red emergency medical bag that she had carried to the World Trade Center on 9/11. Visitors to the 9/11 Memorial Museum will see a fully-stocked red emergency medical bag exhibited with other artifacts relating to the rescue efforts on the morning of September 11, 2001. Yamel Merino is honored for her courage at the 9/11 Memorial’s South Pool alongside other responders. Visitors to the Museum’s memorial exhibition, In Memoriam, can learn more about Merino and all who were killed that day.

You can learn more about women who responded to the attacks and participated in the months of recovery at the World Trade Center, on Inside the Collection, the Museum’s online catalog of objects drawn from the permanent collection.  

By Amy Weinstein, Vice President of Collections & Oral History, 9/11 Memorial & Museum

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