By Alex Lippa
---- — Jennifer Raineri remembers it like was yesterday.
Twelve years ago, Raineri was running on a treadmill at the gym, when she glanced up at the television.
“I was devastated,” she said.
Raineri, 42, of Sandown had just watched two planes crash into the World Trade Center in New York. Immediately, her mind turned to a close friend who was a pilot for American Airlines.
“I received 37 voice messages asking about how he was,” she said. “He was fine, but I realized I couldn’t just sit still.”
Raineri, a nurse at Parkland Medical Center in Derry, called a fellow nurse, Lori Silva, 49, of Londonderry, and the two started planning a trip to New York to help out.
“Knowing that we were so close geographically that we could go, it was a pretty quick decision,” Silva said.
The two women grabbed a map, packed their car and started the four-hour drive to Manhattan later that afternoon.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Silva said. “We didn’t know how close we were going to be able to get.”
Their initial plan was to go to a fire station on Long Island which was sending volunteers over by boat, but they couldn’t get there.
Then they ran into a member of the National Guard at the edge of Manhattan, flashed their nursing licenses and were on their way in.
“We had never done this before, let alone doing it without any outside support,” Raineri said. “Others brought whole medical teams with them.”
The women started assisting in opening a trauma center a few blocks from Ground Zero.
Then they moved closer to the site of the bombings.
“It was pretty surreal, what was going on around us,” Silva said. “It was like a ghost town.”
The women focused on treating rescue personnel for injuries such as eye abrasions and lacerations, but they had some trouble along the way.
“We only had them for a minute at a time,” Raineri said. “They were determined to rescue their working brothers. As we sat on the sidelines with our masks on, the front-line rescuers went into the rubble unprotected and determined. The love and passion for the ones who ultimately sacrificed was the only thing on their minds.”
For Raineri, it was her first trip into New York City, and it changed her perception of the city.
“I always thought New York was a tough city, being a New Hampshire girl,” she said. “But the time I was there proved me wrong. During a time of national crisis, I never felt so safe. Seeing, smelling, and living the disaster, among complete strangers, proved to me how much of a dedicated and loyal country I live in.”
Silva also was inspired. After that experience, she decided to join the U.S. Army as a registered nurse. She was deployed to Iraq and Kuwait in 2006 and 2007.
“It was something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had before,” she said. “But helping the firemen and actually doing it was incredible.”
Raineri left New York the following night to return to her children, but Silva stayed as long as she could.
“FEMA finally kicked us out on (Sept. 14),” she said.
But the experience lingers with them every day, especially on the anniversary.
“I really can’t put into words how it made me feel,” Raineri said. “All I can say is that we live in an amazing country. We have true heroes that live right next door to us.”