Pentagon pharmacy survives terror attack; WTC destroyed

October 1, 2001

Pentagon pharmacy survives terror attack; one at World Trade Center destroyed

 

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Pentagon pharmacy survives terror attack; WTC destroyed

When the police burst through the door, they shouted, "There's going to be a second one—just run, run, run." Behnaz Daghigh, R.Ph., and the other employees of the CVS pharmacy in the D Ring of the Pentagon's main concourse did.

Just minutes before, at 9:43 a.m. on Sept. 11, American Airline's hijacked Flight 77 had smashed into the west side of the Pentagon.

Daghigh had heard "a loud noise, a big explosion." She felt a wall shake and saw dust and particles tumbling from the vents. She struggled to close the pharmacy. "I'm kind of short," she told Drug Topics. "I couldn't reach up to lock it. The gates are pretty high."

Police told thousands of milling Pentagon workers to leave the area, so Daghigh walked several miles to another CVS. The Pentagon store opened the next day at 7:00 a.m. as usual, but it had to close after three hours because of the smoke still billowing from the explosion and fire that left 189 dead or missing in the 6.6 million sq. ft. of the world's largest office building.

Another CVS on Fulton Street near the World Trade Center served as a triage center for emergency medical personnel who rushed to aid victims of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers. CVS said it has given food, medicines, water, and other aid to fire, rescue, and law enforcement personnel working at the Pentagon and WTC sites.

A CVS distribution center also figured in the crash of the fourth hijacked plane in Somerset, Pa. Several CVS employees at the 375,000-sq. ft. facility immediately responded to the crash site as members of local fire and rescue squads.

More than a week after the two kamikaze assaults in New York left more than 6,400 presumed dead, it was impossible to contact nearby pharmacies because of destroyed communications equipment. A Duane Reade pharmacy in one of the WTC's complex of seven buildings was destroyed as a result of the Twin Towers' collapse, reported Craig Burridge, executive director of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York. He said he believed it had been safely evacuated. Repeated calls to Duane Reade headquarters, whose telephone service was not affected, were not returned.

Sarah Datz, public relations manager for Rite Aid Corp., said the chain had 10 stores in lower Manhattan that shut the day of the catastrophe. "We had some stores that were closed at the request of the authorities, because they were either close to areas that were evacuated or because authorities wanted to use them for command centers."

Burridge told Drug Topics there were about 30 pharmacies within a mile of the WTC. Some were closed for a day or two because a large portion of lower Manhattan was shut down.

The N.Y. pharmacy board issued emergency guidelines through Sept. 21 that relied heavily on R.Ph.s' "using responsible professional judgment" and authorizing three-day supplies without a prescription. Pharmacies were allowed to transfer stock without a wholesaler's license.

When hastily mobilized National Guard troops left home without enough of their personal medications, PSSNY's immediate past president Lee Joffee took a special interest. A National Guard captain whose unit was mobilized, Joffee called major insurance carriers and pharmacy benefit managers. Burridge called the chains. "They got the word out to their pharmacists to go the extra mile and to make the phone call if you got an 'early refill' reject," he recounted.

Around midnight that first dreadful day, six McKesson Medical-Surgical trucks were escorted into Manhattan carrying surgical supplies to treat around 6,000 injured survivors and rescuers. Biopharmaceuticals distributor FFF Enterprises trucked 74 pallets of albumin vials—25,000 treatments for burn victims—to a chartered 747 that flew from Los Angeles to Philadelphia in the morning. The Food & Drug Administration gave Solvay approval to ship its investigational burn treatment Flammacerium (sulfadiazine/cerium), which is marketed in Europe. For the first time, the federal government tapped into its emergency pharmaceutical stockpile. Shipped immediately were 84,000 bags of IV fluid, 400 ventilators, Rxs, bandages, and dressings.

When the terrorists' plane hit the Pentagon, staffers at the American Pharmaceutical Association headquarters, barely a mile away across the Potomac River, heard the explosion and felt their windows rattle. They evacuated soon after when the State Department, their neighbors across C Street, did.

In nearby Bethesda, Md., about 70 members of ASHP's policy-recommending councils were meeting. ASHP used its communications network to alert hospitals that Aventis Pasteur was temporarily suspending shipments of tetanus toxoid, already in short supply, to all hospitals not involved in treating victims of the attacks. ASHP CEO Henri Manasse asked the assembled leaders to assess their own institutions' readiness to respond to disasters. Several expressed concerns about their administrations' requiring them to pare drug inventories to a 24- to 48-hour supply to reduce costs.

ASHP began highlighting its Emergency Preparedness-Counter Terrorism Resource Center on its Web site. It was established in May 2000 to provide information for pharmacists about terrorists using chemical or biological weapons to attack American cities.

One casualty of the terrorist attacks was the annual meeting of the American Society for Automation in Pharmacy, which was canceled.

Early on, Walgreens announced it would help stranded travelers get emergency prescriptions filled either at its or competitors' stores. Wal-Mart, with more than 2,100 pharmacies, gave $1 million to the American Red Cross and pledged to match $1 million to other relief agencies. Cardinal Health and its Medicine Shoppes donated $1 million.

Dozens of other members of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores are making donations and conducting a variety of in-store programs. NACDS donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross and established the 9/11 Fund for members to coordinate customer and employee donation programs. In all, 30,000 pharmacies were involved, NACDS said, and they had made pledges of $5 million.

Michael F. Conlan

 

Mike Conlan. Pentagon pharmacy survives terror attack; WTC destroyed. Drug Topics 2001;19:14.