Warren works behind scenes at Olympics

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Features Editor

Eddie Warren went to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City hoping to never get a chance to participate in his "event."

A surgeon at the Veterans Administration hospitals in Montgomery and Tuskegee, Warren is a member of the VA Emergency Medical Response from the Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina region, assigned to the VA anti-terrorism team for the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake.

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Warren is the clinical coordinator for the team, which was the first emergency medical response team organized by the VA.

"The emergency medical response team was organized in 1995 and trained in medical disaster management," Warren said. "We were trained to responded to different types of disasters – hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and terrorism."

Since Sept. 11, 2001. terrorism has been moved to the top of the response team’s list, especially with the world coming to the United States for the Winter Olympic Games.

"Our team has been training longer than any other team, so were were asked to go the the Games in support of a Florida decontamination team," he said.

The VA building in Salt Lake is located across the street from the Olympic Village, making it an ideal location for an emergency medical response team.

"Our role there was not as spectators of the great Olympic event but as a medical team that was ready to respond to any emergency," Warren said. "The greatest threat of a terrorist attack would be at the opening or closing ceremonies because so all the athletes and so many spectators would be gathered in one place. We were on a heightened state of readiness during the opening ceremony, Feb. 8."

Warren was changing shift during the opening ceremony and was able to see some of the fireworks display. Other than the fireworks and the sight of spectators pouring into the stadium and a drifting of music, that’s was all of Warren’s Olympic experience.

He, LaDonna Golden, a nurse executive his the team and the Florida team had the responsibility of teaching classes to the Salt Lake City VA staff.

"The two threats which concerned us most were a chemical attack and a bomb or mass explosion," he said. "Those could happen at any time, anywhere and many people could be injured or killed. Our team had been involved in anti-terrorism training for a long time and we were asked to share our expertise."

So, while Brodie Miller and Apollo Anton Ohno were winning medals for the United States, Eddie Warren was working behind the scenes to make sure the VA staff was prepared to respond to any medical emergency that might arise.

"I didn’t really mind that I didn’t get to see much while I was there," he said. "I did see some of the athletes in the airport when I arrived and some of those entering Olympic Stadium for dress rehearsals for the opening ceremony. But we ate and slept at the VA office building in a constant state of readiness."

Warren also served on the team during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and has coordinated VA emergency medical response efforts after hurricanes and floods in Florida and Louisiana.

He is a graduate of Charles Henderson High School, Troy State University and the University of Alabama Medical School.