Charlie Dunne, MA-TF1 Communications

Charlie Dunne

What a beautiful day it was. I was kind of playing hookie – sandblasting the frame on my old Ford pickup. I remember going to the cache to borrow an air hose out of one of the old military pioneering trailers. The reason I remember it well is because the side cover of the trailer fell on my back while I was fishing for the hose. That got my attention! I remember Mike Bookman riding by and casually mentioning that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I immediately had an image in my mind of a Cessna 172 hitting the side of the building – the building won.

Of course, things unfolded in a different way very rapidly. I went over to the building where Michael was watching TV and saw that it was not a small plane. I can’t remember whether the second plane had hit yet, but I remember thinking that the building was going to come down because there was so much fire & smoke.

I called my wife Liz and told her to “turn on the TV – just turn on the TV.”

By the time I got home, the second building had been hit and I started to get my stuff together. I was scared, my wife was scared, and our son Noah, not quite 1 year old, got some shirts from his grandmother that turned out to have planes on them!

I’ve never been to war, so I had images of the dangers that lay ahead in NY – more terrorist attacks, bombs, booby traps, chemical warfare. I wasn’t sure that I was up to the task, but I was going to do it. In those days I knew pretty much everyone on the team, and there were basically two comm guys deploying, Bill Yee and I. There needed to be at least two of us to support each other and handle the shifts. I rode down in the now famous camper with the command staff, and though I was worried and a bit scared, I had a strange feeling of being OK. I think that feeling came from knowing that I was traveling with a bunch of dedicated amazing people who watched over each other. Even when I was alone walking around the pit in the middle of the night – and it was spooky – I felt like I was being held up by them!

I thought I was lucky to get on the night shift, and Bill thought he was lucky to get on the day shift. Things work out sometimes. I saw the place during the day when we first went in, and there were wackos, thieves, political types and too many helpful people! The night shift was quiet, and Bob Better was in charge. The guys & dogs were working the pile, and I had two portable radios, one for our guys, and one for FEMA command. The little generator at the C.P. tent that ran the lights, radios and the Nextel booster would die periodically and need gas, so we’d stumble over there with our flashlights and get her going again.

The bad part about the night shift was that there was no sleep during the day. No way could I sleep in the huge bright room at Javitz with all that was going on. A few of us tried a little sleep vacation in the camper one night, and found that we were not the first ones who had used it!

I called Liz as much as I could. We missed each other a lot, and towards the end of the week I wanted to go home badly. It seemed like there wasn’t going to be anyone found alive at that point. When we arrived back at Beverly, Liz and Noah were waiting with hugs and kisses. It was a very happy moment for all of us.

Charlie Dunne