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New York EMS worker returns to old routine

From Brian Palmer

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Like many uniformed New Yorkers, paramedic Kerry Aalbue's usual routine stopped on September 11.

Ground Zero became the focus of her existence, as the paramedics waited for survivors -- including several good friends of hers -- who never appeared.

These days, Aalbue and her partner Cosmo Jackson spend less time at Ground Zero and more time on regular duty, answering calls, tending wounds on New York City streets, and often just killing time.

Though Aalbue's heart is at the World Trade Center site, she's also happy to be back in her regular work routine.

For many NY emergency workers, the disaster of September 11th has altered their lives forever. CNN's Brian Palmer reports (November 26)

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"You know, you're immersed in death. And you know, to come here, I actually might make a difference. I mean, down there, I'm not going to make a difference anymore," says Aalbue, who started a scrapbook to remember lost friends.

Aalbue became a paramedic for all the right reasons.

"I took the course for no other reason than there was a cute guy in the class," she said. "He turned out to be an idiot."

Nearly 20 years later, the mother of two is still an emergency medical technician.

Life continues at home and at work for the Aalbue family. But continuing doesn't mean returning to normal

Aalbue was dispatched to the Flight 587 crash site, joining the now-familiar task of searching for bodies.

"Your brain isn't there," she explained. "Your brain is functioning at the task at hand, and you're into your job, you're into doing what you've got to do then and there. And we tend to -- myself -- to detach myself from the emotion surrounding me, because I have a job to do."

Aalbue and her husband, a New York City cop, are now preparing for what once was unthinkable.

"Both of us have made an appointment, and we're going to have wills written out, simply just because you don't know. I'm sure every person who went to the World Trade Center that day wasn't planning on dying that day."


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