Friday, June 11, 2010

Saint Vincent's Hospital, N.Y.C. (part 1)

On 9/11 I learned an important lesson: there is nothing on the face of this earth that can not be destroyed. Buildings I had taken for granted-crumbled. And there was nothing anyone could do to help -in any way. I thought I had learned to take nothing for granted on that day.
Saint Vincent's Hospital was "born" in 1849. It was a fixture in N.Y.C. and , in retrospect, I do think "we" all took the existence of Saint Vincent's Hospital for granted. Perhaps "we" ignored the signs.
In 2000 Saint Vincent's merged with several other area hospitals to form Saint Vincent's Catholic Medical Center: Saint Joseph's, Mary Immaculate, Saint John's, Bayley Seton & later Saint Claire's. It seemed the idea was to form a network that would shore up individual hospitals but in reality the plan might have been to slowly close the system down.
Saint Vincent's hospital has been a part of my N.Y. for decades. It was part of my college's extended campus. On 9/11 the hospital braced, along with other N.Y.C. hospitals, for a flood of wounded people that never arrived at it's emergency room doors, as there were few survivors that day. New Yorkers knew Saint Vincent's was struggling-trying to reinvent itself to survive while still keeping to it's mission to serve the poor. As the economy worsened other N.Y, hospitals stepped up in a series of attempts to partner with and save Saint Vincent's. Why this did not work and why Saint Vincent's was eventually closed is still being debated -there are as many theories as there are former St. Vincent's employees and some will tell you to very closely watch what happens next.
I had been meaning to go down to Saint Vincent's for several weeks now to document it's existence but I stayed away. I had the feeling it might be too raw, too real. This week I passed by-almost by mistake. The E.R entrance was covered with posters and fliers and this time around it was Saint Vincent's itself that was the casualty and there seemed to be nothing that could be done to save it. And those fliers had an eery familiarity. They brought to mind all of the fliers that appeared just after 9/11 as people posted images and descriptions of the missing. Those fliers were such visually poignant reminders of the loss being felt across the city, then and now.

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