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Dr. Scott Rathgaber: A different world, changed forever

From the COLLECTION: 20 years later, our readers share 9/11 memories series
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Sept. 11, 2001, began as a normal day as I drove to Tomah Memorial Hospital to see Gastroenterology patients. I heard on the radio that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. A kaleidoscope of emotions would follow. I assumed it was a tragic accident and felt a sense of disbelief. At the hospital, I found staff huddled around televisions in shock. Another plane had struck the second tower. This was not an accident. This was a terrorist attack. How was this possible?

We cared for our patients while monitoring the unfolding events. I hadn’t considered the structural integrity of the enormous buildings would be compromised until they collapsed. There was a collective deep sadness about the senseless loss of life. Shock returned when I contemplated the hatred necessary to carry out this cowardly act killing thousands of innocent people. I thought this was directed at our type of government, not our citizens. I felt pity for those with such hate in their hearts, but a seed of resolve began that day to defend liberty.

I will never forget the terrible images of that day and the lives irreversibly changed. I feared this act would cause further bloodshed as we could no longer ignore the growing hatred thousands of miles away. By the end of the day, I felt a sense of great loss. Loss of life, loss of control, and loss of innocence. I knew our world had changed forever.

There would be wars, security changes, and a general constriction of our freedom to protect ourselves. Whether those responses were correct, I cannot judge. I only know that when I laid down to sleep that night, I slumbered in a different world, changed forever in a day.

Dr. Scott Rathgaber MD

Gundersen Health System CEO 

La Crosse 

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