RAY SUAREZ: When the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center last Tuesday, there were scores of wounded on the street before anyone knew there was another plane coming, before it was understood this was a terror attack -- all eyes had turned to a small hospital near Manhattan's southern tip. Most people don't think of this part of New York as a residential area, but because of the financial district, it has a daytime population of 400,000 people. That's about the same size as Miami or in Atlanta. So when the World Trade Center started to burn, they came to the closest place they could, the injured were brought here to the NYU downtown hospital. Leonard Aubrey is the hospital's CEO.
LEONARD AUBREY: Timing is everything in life, and on July 31, we had a disaster drill, which we do a couple of times year, of sort of checking on our disaster plan see if everything goes in place, making sure the right people are at the right place at the righted time. So we conducted that drill on July 31 very successfully. We were also fortunate enough to have several of our vendors and suppliers just show up because they wanted to help out, just show up. Our partner institution, NYU Medical Center, sent supplies down here - just sent supplies without being asked, just showing up. And that really brought us through the real difficult parts early stages of this attack.
RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Howard Beaton is the chief of surgery.
DR. HOWARD BEATON: Some patients were very, very severely injured. And three patients were actually brought in dead on arrival. Some of the more severe injured patients were patients who had severe head injuries, there were several of those, patients who had severe injuries to their chest, bleeding inside their chest, spinal chord fractures. We took care of many spinal cord fractures -- fractures of the pelvis, bleeding internally; large soft tissue injuries with big burns and large amounts of tissue loss, muscle hanging out, limbs at all sorts of strange angles. I was really quite something to see, and for somebody who has not had any wartime experience, this is... I suspect as close to a battlefield as you'll ever get. And quite frankly, for a while, we felt like we were really a MASH unit.
RAY SUAREZ: Being so close to the attack site was beneficial. Being so close was terrible. The hospital lost its power and had to be supplied by generators. Security cordons made it hard for staff to reach the hospital.
LEONARD AUBREY: We made the decision to stabilize people and transfer them out to our affiliate hospitals up town by ambulance, and we wanted to do that throughout the day so that we would keep vacant beds in the hospital at all times in expectation that we would receive the sort of second wave of patients coming from the tragedy.
DR. HOWARD BEATON: We were then in a situation where we were told to expect the second waive. And at one time we were told that that second wave might be as many as 500 acutely ill patients brought here. So we then restocked, we restaffed; we made sure that everything was ready, and available for them. And then we just waited. And the problem with the wait is you never know when it's going to end. So it became Tuesday afternoon, it became Tuesday evening it became Wednesday morning. We were fully staffed, and the realization that there were no more severely ill patients coming from the disaster site is something that really, I think, just sunk in over the day on Wednesday and became a reality on Thursday.
RAY SUAREZ: No survivors have been pulled from the site for days, not one. So now the hospital is treating its remaining initial victims, waiting for power and supplies and treating injured and exhausted rescue workers like Jim Ciotti.
RAY SUAREZ: Are you going to go back in after you take it easy for a little while, or is this it for you?
JIM CIOTTI: I'm going back over. I've got to.
RAY SUAREZ: Why do you have to?
JIM CIOTTI: Because I feel I have to. It wouldn't be right not to. Everybody else is working so hard. So it's my obligation to do that too.
RAY SUAREZ: A place like NYU Downtown runs in a disaster because of people like Deborah Sunnenblik, who broke her foot at the attack site and kept on working anyway, and the staff members who rushed food, aid and drugs to the senior citizens residents it serves, nowadays without electricity, hot water and open pharmacies.
SPOKESPERSON: We're still trying to find out about mail deliveries. We're still trying to find out exactly what public transportation is open.
RAY SUAREZ: The staff wants to start normal life Monday when the flood of the hopefuls searching for missing friends and relatives slows to a trickle. The hard work of reconnecting Lower Manhattan to the rest of New York is continuing at a furious pace, Washing down debris-covered buildings, struggling to restore electricity, power, phones, vacuuming up the thick dust that blankets this neighborhood for blocks and readying the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange for the reopening of the U.S.-based markets Monday morning -- even as the dangerous struggle to find the injured and the dead continues around the clock, just a few blocks away.