LAURINBURG —The Scotland Memorial Foundation on Thursday hosted an event which, through the experiences of a man who survived the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks, hammered home the importance of making informed decisions when it comes to men’s health.
The “Mens Health Event,” beginning with free health screenings and a panel discussion during which no women were allowed, culminated with the speech from Joe Dittmar. One of seven to survive a 54-person business meeting, Dittmar said just as warning signs of a serious health problem are often dismissed, he and his colleagues working in the southern Twin Tower at first waved off what they assumed was a power shortage.
The group was completely isolated in the conference room with no windows and one set of doors, unaware to the danger they were in. When commanded by a fire marshal to evacuate the building, the business party filed out of the room and down the stairs from the 105th floor.
“Each of you knew before we did from the inside,” said Dittmar. “We. Had. No. Clue.”
Many of the more than 40 men — locals, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, doctors and paramedics — who attended the program at the W. R. Dulin Conference Center came close to tears during Dittmar’s speech.
It wasn’t until his group reached the 90th floor, Dittmar said, that they could see that a plane had crashed into the building across from them. The rest of the journey to the ground floor was one of “stunned silence” and then panic. When Dittmar finally saw men in uniform — police officers and firefighters — running up the stairs he new something was terribly wrong.
“Just the looks in their eyes told the story,” he said.
“They knew,” Dittmar said solemnly. “They knew they were going up those steps to put out a fire they couldn’t beat. They knew they were going up those stairs to save lives that couldn’t be saved. They knew they were going into the depths of hell — they knew they weren’t coming back.”
Amidst the chaos, Dittmar noted the many decisions people made in a split second. One man climbed back up several flights of stairs to retrieve tickets to a Yankee game — he never made it back down.
“You can make a tremendous decision that can make tremendously successful results,” he said. “I’m here today, alive and fortunate enough to be able to share all of this with you because of the series of decisions made in the most critical of situations. However, you don’t need to be in a flaming, high-rise office building on the 105th floor during a terrorist attack.”
“You can be in a beautiful, health center facility on a great June night — in Scotland County — in North Carolina. And by making the right decisions you can have positive and lasting effects on your peers and your partners, helping them — and you — and maybe even save your life and the lives of others.”
Dr. Timothy Moses, a urologist, told the group there are times when people are thrust into carrying the role as a leader and sometimes they must make decisions based on one of their most primal instincts — their “gut feeling.”
“Decision-making is a testament to making solid decisions,” he said. “No matter how big or no matter how small it may seem, a decision can change your life and the lives of others in ways way beyond that which you can ever imagine. The information, the resources and the trust of your source that you bring to the decision-making process determines the strength and accuracy of that decision for better or for worse.”
Although the on-site screenings were provided for free by the Scotland Memorial Foundation, guests paid a $5 fee to attend. All proceeds will be donated to Dittmar for the Chatham North Carolina First Responders’ Memorial.
Rachel McAuley can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 15. Follow her on Twitter @rachelmcauley1.