By LOIS KINDLE
Every year on Sept. 11, commemorations are held throughout America to reflect on the 2,977 lives, including 412 first responders and emergency workers, lost as a result of the terrorist attacks in 2001. This year, South Bay Hospital’s commemoration included an event of appreciation for the Hillsborough County first responders who work with hospital employees in serving the community.
About 20 hospital employees pitched in to serve members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, Sun City Center Emergency Squad and AmeriCare Ambulance service a drive-through, brown bag lunch of bratwurst, burgers, ribs, chips, cookies and a cold drink.
“We had a nice mix of more than 60 first responders stop by,” said Lesley Lykins, South Bay Hospital’s director of marketing and public relations. “It was a great opportunity to connect with them and thank them for their daily service and sacrifice.”
As part of the 9/11 commemoration, South Bay Hospital also observed a moment of silence at 9:59 a.m., the time when the South Towers of the Twin Towers collapsed in New York City. Like many Americans, hospital employees recollected throughout the day where they were at the time of the terrorist attacks.
Michael McDuffie, of South Bay Hospital’s Security Team, was a New Jersey State Highway patrolman.
“They called us in to take over at the airport, since all the port authority officers were over in New York City,” McDuffie said. “I went on a 12-hour shift and just kept working for at least the next three weeks.”
McDuffie, a 26-year Air Force veteran, expressed gratitude for the military members who went on to fight in wars following 9/11. He said it is motivating for people in law enforcement and emergency services to know their work is recognized and appreciated.
The day’s commemoration included placing flowers on the First Responder Memorial at South Bay Hospital by Michael Zimmerman, director of emergency services, who came up with the idea to host the 9/11 event. He felt the commemoration and lunch reflected the strong bond across the area’s emergency services, particularly in the Sun City Center community.
“South Bay Hospital’s strong partnership is invaluable to our overall community’s health and well-being,” Zimmermann said. “South Bay’s commitment to having close collaboration with EMS on both internal initiatives and external initiatives ensures better outcomes when emergencies strike. We have the utmost respect for our first responders and value their selfless service.”
He noted local EMS providers frequently comment on how seamless the transfer of patients is from the EMS unit to the emergency room.
“The partnerships we have with our community’s first responders save lives,” Zimmermann said.
“9/11 is a day of remembrance for those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Sun City Center Emergency Squad Chief Mike Bardell. “It’s important and respectful for us to remember them on this day. And it’s a great thing this community looks out for its first responders in this way.”
South Bay Hospital was founded in 1982 as part of HCA Healthcare West Florida. The 138-bed community hospital offers a wide variety of patient-centered services to the community, including 24-hour emergency services, cardiology, general surgery and orthopedics.