On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Jane Davis was up early. She had a lot to do to prepare for an evening meeting with the family readiness group she headed up. Davis, the wife of then Womack Army Medical Center Commander, Gary Matteson, had been planning the big meeting for several weeks.
As the news of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93, began to saturate the radio and television, Davis made her way to Womack. With tears in her eyes, she made the call to cancel the meeting. While many spent the next several days feeling helpless and afraid, Davis spent them planning on a way she could make a difference. In a matter of days, Davis, a nurse, had volunteered to go to Ground Zero to treat the countless volunteers who crawled in and out of the remains on a 24-hour basis.
In her ﬁrst book, First Aid for Heroes, Davis relates the event of 9/11, how they affected her and memories from time spent at Ground Zero. On Thursday, May 10, Davis will be at City Center Gallery and Books to promote her book, and to talk about the experience.
“I was literally compelled to do more. It was something deep within me, a deep-seated feeling that I needed to help out on a much larger level,” said Davis, during an interview about her book published on www. pdpatient.wordpress.com. “To watch the devastating news on the television all day or to answer phones at the local Red Cross Station, was just not enough for me.
“My family was incredibly supportive and very proud of me for choosing to do this. Gary, my husband, was incredibly busy at Fort Bragg (where we were living) as he was commanding the post hospital, Womack Army Medical Center. He understood my pull, as he had seen it many times before with my volunteering at every military post we had been stationed. It was a hard decision though, as I knew the assignment would be for at least three weeks. My life on the military post was a very busy one as I was involved with many organizations and they were counting on me. Everyone gave me their blessing. I ended up working/volunteering at Ground Zero for six and a half weeks.”
Davis said her arrival on Ground Zero was like stepping into a black and white movie.
“The noise of Midtown Manhattan was what I remember when I entered the subway, but it was a totally different city once I exited in Lower Manhattan. The hustle and bustle of the big city seemed to be hundreds of miles away, it could have been in another state, another country, and it was only a short subway ride away. The ﬁ rst thing I noticed is that people were talking in hushed voices and quietly sobbing. There was a stillness in the air, a quietness, not like the cacophonous sound of Midtown Manhattan,” she recalled. “I had to force myself to observe the devastation of Ground Zero, I knew that I could not start my volunteer job until I made myself look. The vastness of the devastation was so powerful, it looked as if I was in the middle of a war zone. I realized that the television could not capture the enormity of it, as it was 360 degrees of tragedy. Then the overpowering stench assaulted my nostrils. It was a smell like no other, and one that is hard to describe. I can still smell it and did when I recently returned to Ground Zero to pay my respects after 9/11/11. I know it was only in my mind, but I am amazed that the smell has lingered inside me.”
While at City Center Gallery and Books, Davis will recount the time she spent at Ground Zero and the lessons she has learned since then about embracing life to its fullest.
The book signing will run from 6-8 p.m. at City Center in downtown Fayetteville. Davis will make comments at 7 p.m. For more information, visit the website at citycentergallery.com.
Photo: Jane Davis was honored by President George Bush for her service at Ground Zero.