Nineteen years ago today, as people evacuated from the Pentagon after a plane crashed into it in a terror attack, a doctor working there that day stayed behind to help save lives.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Dr. Veena Railan was at work as a medical officer at the Pentagon.
“It was a very nice, regular morning for us,” she said.
She stopped on the fifth floor for a brief errand when some airmen asked her to stay for breakfast.
“One of them said, ‘Hey, doc, if you want, you enjoy the coffee and donuts,’” she said.
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But Railan declined because she had too much work and went back to her office.
Shortly after, the plane hit the Pentagon, striking the wing where she’d just been.
“That whole place was decimated,” Railan said. “All those young men were gone. I never saw them ever again.”
As people evacuated, there was talk that a second plane could hit the Pentagon. Railan chose to stay.
“I did not even think of leaving,” she said. “There was no question of leaving. It was an emergency.”
She said she lost track of how many patients she treated, but one sticks in her mind.
“My first patient I will never forget,” she said. “He was a gentleman with a third-degree burn on his left arm and on his right foot.
Railan has continued working as a doctor with the Department of Defense.
“The most important thing is we cannot forget that day,” she said. “We cannot forget the loss, the people we lost, the people who gave their lives and the people who stand watch over the country.”