Evelyn Torres-Ferrara, an administrative employee at the hospital who had just been discharged after surgery to have a tumor removed from her face, was on the eighth floor with her husband when the shooting occurred.
Ms. Torres-Ferrara said the couple had not heard gunfire or seen those who were hit, but had watched doctors rushing to stabilize what a co-worker told her were two victims, one who had been shot in the leg and the other who been struck in the neck.
She said the victims had been quickly taken to the first-floor emergency room.
“It definitely helped that the doctors were right there,” she said.
Her husband, Ian Wittenberg, a pediatrician who has worked at Bronx-Lebanon for 17 years, said there were tough challenges ahead.
“A gunshot wound to the neck, there are so many large blood vessels there,” he said. “No one is safe from that.”
Dealing with a gunman intent on inflicting mass casualties in a hospital presents unique challenges. Unlike in a school or a movie theater, many of the people in a hospital are patients who cannot be moved.
The instinct when gunshots are fired is to run. If you are in an operating room, that is not an option.
Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, said that unless a gunman enters the operating room itself, “you keep going.”
“You really have to depend upon the judgment of people in these situations” he said.
Hospitals conduct robust training for lockdown situations and have stringent protocols for protecting staff members and patients.
“The specific security staff at a hospital will not be armed and not able to do much about a random shooting like this,” Dr. Redlener said.
Many such drills focus on what is considered the most likely shooting scenario in a hospital — a gunman entering through the emergency entrance — but if a disgruntled employee or former patient familiar with the building’s layout is involved, the threat could be more problematic.
Kyrillos Rezkalla, a third-year medical student, was on the hospital’s ninth floor at the time of the shooting. He said he had barricaded himself and others in a conference room after watching several doctors rush toward a stairwell.
The words “code silver” — the term for “person with a weapon” — came over the speakers. The “coat team,” as Mr. Rezkalla called the doctors, rolled a stretcher and carried gauze.
They were responding to a gunshot wound, which Mr. Rezkalla said he had heard was to the victim’s liver. The doctors needed to attend to the patient’s immediate needs before taking him to the emergency room.
“The people who ran out there were really courageous,” Mr. Rezkalla said. “It’s a big risk that they took, but they did it.”
Continue reading the main story