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United Hatzalah First Responder Describes Heroic Efforts in the Midst of Chaos of October 7th Attack: A Firsthand Account of Lifesaving Efforts Under Fire
By Gitty Beer
On the morning of October 7, as the first reports of injuries began to arrive at the United Hatzalah dispatch center, over 1,500 volunteers dropped whatever they were doing and rushed to offer vital medical assistance. Among these remarkable individuals was Gitty Beer, a Jerusalem-based EMT and first responder who took an ambulance down to the south. Gitty and her team were one of the first responders to arrive at the city of Sderot at 9:30 a.m. There was little information known at the time about the situation, and, unbeknownst to them, they had entered an active combat zone with terrorists still roaming the city.
“We had no idea of the magnitude of this attack,” Gitty recalled. The scenes they encountered were nothing short of harrowing. “The streets were completely empty. It felt like a nightmare. Everywhere we went, we found bodies. lifeless bodies in vehicles, bodies lying in the middle of the streets. Tens of bodies strewn everywhere.” The team went about their grim task, checking for vital signs in the hope of saving the lives of the victims, but sadly, there was no one left alive.
The team was then dispatched to the nearby Kibbutz of Reim, where there were reports of many injuries at the Super Nova Peace Festival. They arrived at the staging area, where security forces had positioned a fleet of ambulances. As the IDF worked to clear the area of terrorists, many patients were continually arriving for treatment and evacuation. While the sounds of gunfire and explosions filled the air, Gitty swiftly sprang into action and began to treat the most severely wounded.
The teams worked under great duress for many hours to treat and evacuate the thousands of patients. More and more injured people arrived from other nearby areas, such as Be’eri and Kibbutz Nir Oz. Working together with the IDF, the most seriously injured patients were airlifted to safety, while other patients with less serious injuries were transported via ambulance to various nearby hospitals.
“The volume of patients was overwhelming,” Gitty said. “There were just so many coming out; it was crazy. We utilized the ‘scoop and run’ protocol and did our best to just get everyone out of the danger zone and to the hospital as soon as possible. Ambulances would arrive, and we’d load in patients and send them off. As soon as those patients were dropped off at the hospital, the ambulances would rush back to evacuate other patients.”
As the conflict extended into Sunday, October 8th, Gitty and her team, now seasoned from a day in the field, began receiving patients in smaller numbers. However, the gravity of their injuries remained consistent. “We were still receiving patients with gunshot wounds,” Gitty remarked. This time, she had the opportunity to engage with her patients on a more personal level as she treated them, becoming a direct witness to their stories.
“One patient arrived with both legs grievously wounded from multiple gunshot wounds. Due to severe bleeding, two tourniquets were applied.” Another patient had an entrance wound on their upper chest but was still breathing. As she treated them, Gitty learned that the two had been huddled in a shelter with many others, fending off terrorists attempting to gain entry. For fifteen agonizing minutes, they managed to keep the door shut until the terrorists broke in and shot everyone inside, resulting in a devastating loss of life. “It’s horrible. They were utterly petrified.” In one instance, a patient with a critical brain injury had to be intubated and was evacuated by helicopter.
Among the myriad challenging cases, some hit painfully close to home. One of the paramedics on Gitty’s ambulance had family residing in Sderot. On the initial day of the conflict, he received reports of terrorists firing in his neighborhood. Unable to reach his wife, his anxiety reached a peak. With a heightened sense of fear and trepidation, the ambulance team rushed to his home. Two members of the team were armed, a necessity in light of the prevailing security situation in Israel. With a sense of caution, they entered the residence. “We called her (his wife’s) name, and she did not respond,” Gitty recounted. Eventually, they found her in the shelter with their children, paralyzed with fear. “I hadn’t witnessed a grown man cry in a very long time until then.”
By Monday, October 9th, non-medical needs began pouring in from the field. “We began delivering food and essential supplies to the soldiers, who required them in substantial quantities,” Gitty shared. United Hatzalah’s field command center, which was set up nearby, provided food, basic clothing, socks and underwear, and other essential provisions.
“The entirety of Israel extended their support, and we encountered people everywhere who were eager to assist the soldiers,” Gitty reflected.
One request that stood out was soldiers asking for “Tzitzit,” a traditional religious garment often worn by observant Jews as a reminder of the Torah’s commandments. Even for Gitty, who is observant herself, this request was unprecedented in both its nature and scale. “I personally delivered 150 pairs of tzitzit to the soldiers. It was an intriguing experience; I had never witnessed such a request before.”
The spirit of unity and solidarity was palpable. “The morale was exceedingly high. Wherever I went, I felt that we were one people, united in our fight against evil, and resolute in our determination to prevail in this war. Am Israel Chai!” Gitty’s cheerful tone in her voice, despite the atrocities she witnessed, epitomized the remarkable resilience she embodies and mirrored the prevailing sentiment across the nation. “We are stronger when we stand together!”
Gitty Beer is an EMT first responder who lives in Jerusalem with her husband Eli Beer, and is the mother of five and grandmother of four. She is currently studying advanced level emergency medicine.