When school nurse Tricia Fauske reported to work on Oct. 31, she expected a fun day at PS 3 in the West Village, where many students would be in costume for Halloween. But the day took a shocking turn that thrust her and her daughter, substitute teacher Emily Rankin, into the scene of the deadliest terror attack in New York City since 9/11.
Turning onto West Street at 3 p.m. on their drive home, Fauske and her daughter saw two construction workers waving their arms and shouting for help. “At first I wondered, ‘Are they filming a movie? Is it a Halloween prank?’” Fauske said. “But I pulled the car over.”
The two construction workers helped Fauske and Rankin through the underbrush that partially shielded the bike lane. There were five wounded or dead people on the ground. One man on the ground was getting CPR by another Good Samaritan.
“I’ve seen a lot of things in a hospital, but not like this,” said Fauske, who worked for 20 years in the intensive care unit at the now-closed St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Fauske’s instincts as a nurse kicked in. “Right away I assessed the situation,” she said. “One man had already passed away. Another took his last breath while I was taking his pulse.”
Nearby a woman was clearly in shock; her ankles had been run over. “She needed a tourniquet,” Fauske said. “I borrowed a belt from a passerby and put it on the woman.” She instructed Rankin on how to calm the woman by staying with her and rubbing her back until the ambulance came.
“It was overwhelming, but in the moment we just did what we had to do,” Fauske said.
About 15 minutes later, emergency personnel swarmed the area and helicopters beat overhead. Detectives questioned Fauske and Rankin about what they had witnessed.
Only later would they learn that the assailant had deliberately driven a truck through the popular bike lane near the Hudson River. Eight people were killed. A school bus driver, the bus matron and two District 75 students on the bus were among those injured. A lab specialist riding a bicycle home was also hit. Staff and students in lower Manhattan schools sheltered in for hours after the incident.
The trauma of the day lingered for Fauske and Rankin. “A couple of days later, we broke down over the horrific scene we saw,” Fauske said. “The UFT sent a lovely doctor here, Dr. Enrique DeUrquiza, to talk to us and see how we were doing.” Dr. DeUrquiza is the clinical coordinator of crisis for the UFT’s Member Assistance Program.
“We’re doing OK,” Fauske said. “We have strong faith and we know God is in control.”
Although recounting the events of that day was difficult, Fauske said she felt an obligation to share her story. “I want to encourage people to help out,” she said. “And I want them to know they can get through it.”