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After Sept. 11, Why The Military Was Her Calling

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The ceremony honoring victims of 9/11 is underway at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. Throughout the morning, the family members of 9/11 victims are reading names of those who died 15 years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Andrew K. Kates.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: John A. Katsimatides.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Robert Michael Kaulfers.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Don Jerome Kauth Jr.

MARTIN: That day changed the course of so many people's lives in both big and small ways. Stephanie Streit was a senior in high school on September 11. And she told us how that day changed her.

STEPHANIE STREIT: My name is Stephanie Streit. I live in Cincinnati, Ohio. And I am a trauma surgeon. September 11, 2001, you know, started like a normal day. I was a senior in high school. I went to a small high school in a small town in Ohio. I was in second period when the first two planes hit. Nothing was normal for the rest of the day. And I just remember sort of sitting there with my friends with a totally helpless feeling. There was nothing that we could do.

My two closest friends at the time - they were both going to play football at military academies. And I remember looking at the two of them and saying out loud - well, I guess I'm joining the military, too. Everybody knew I was going to be a physician. And so I didn't think about the military at all for the first couple of years of college. I just didn't know that - I didn't think it was an option. I thought if I wanted to be a doctor, then that's all I could do. I couldn't do both.

Towards the end of my junior year of college, I was up in the middle of the night studying one night and got an email that was basically a flyer for what's called the Health Professions Scholarship Program, a path through which the military will pay for medical school with the pay back of service. And I saw that flyer, and I went from being drowsy at 3 a.m. to being wide awake, just with the utmost conviction that I had just found what I was supposed to do. I have been a military officer since April of 2006. Training to be the kind of physician that I am takes somewhere between 11 and 15 years, and so I'm in that 11th year.

I think that a lot of people, when they remember 9/11 - the scenes and the videos - they remember the folks, you know, in their business suits covered in ash running away. But I think those of us that are drawn to this kind of work, we remember the men and women in uniforms running towards. You know, we remember the famous quote from Mr. Rogers, in situations of chaos, look to the helpers. And so I saw the firefighters, the policemen running towards the chaos with good in their eyes and in their hearts, and I saw what I wanted to be.

MARTIN: That was Stephanie Streit. And this is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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