The morning of 9 September 2001 was sunny and warm. I remember that it was a Tuesday, as I worked the 11AM to 8PM shift at Polycom on Tuesdays and was in Salem that morning. I had just exited from the Family & Probate Court, having recently been thru a rancorous divorce, and was walking along Washington Street towards the Salem T Station. My cellphone was busy, first with a call from my mother to let me know what was happening in NYC and then from my son, asking me if I was going to help in NYC at the World Trade Center emergency with the FEMA Team. As difficult as this second conversation was, I tried to explain to him that I couldn’t go, as I needed to stay home and take care of him. (Historical perspective: As my son grew, he was indirectly involved with my activities both at work and in the Beverly CD, Beverly Emergency Management Agency (BEMA) and USAR over the years. Then in the early 90’s, Mark Foster and a group of prospective members from the Massachusetts area were invited to Fairfax, VA to learn about a new national Search & Rescue concept that closely matched one that Mark had been proposing locally; I was part of that group. It was proposed that we would be the 25th or 26th FEMA USAR team (MA-TF1), unfunded at the time, but full of ideas and potential. Fast forward from our deployment to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA and on to January 1999, when my then 10 year old son came to live with me under stressful conditions and I had put all of my credentialed activities on hold (EMT-A, USAR, BEMA, etc.) to focus on him. I soon thereafter got RIF’d from my job along with a golden parachute, which allowed me further time to focus on his needs.)
As I watched the news unfolding on TV after returning home, I knew that the Beverly Team would be mobilizing to support the NY Fire Department and other resources in lower Manhattan, as this was a short (?) 5-6 hour drive south from Beverly. This was a bittersweet thought, as I had been training in both Technical Information Specialist and Communication Specialist roles to support the Team in just such a deployment and here I was sitting safely at home as a civilian, helplessly watching the horrific events of the day playing themselves out in NYC, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC.
Over the new few days, I contacted the Beverly Cache, looking to offer whatever support I could. I was gratified to be allowed to come in and work the desk on an overnight shift and then return to the Cache to greet the Team when they arrived back in Beverly after their mission in NYC had ended.
It was many years later that I was finally able to visit Lower Manhattan, not for lack of earlier opportunities. The feeling of shame that I had felt all those years for not being there with the men and women that I had trained with had gnawed at me. This was a day trip with my wife and friends where I was cajoled, coached and eventually dragged along. After doing the touristy things, we trekked to Lower Manhattan for a visit to Engine 10/Ladder 10’s quarters and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. By this time, the pit was gone, replaced by the construction of the new One World Trade Center tower and grounds. During our brief visit, I tried to take it all in – the old, the new, the pain from all the lives lost and the promise of renewal. I came to understand that while I didn’t respond with the Team back on 9/11, I had an important job to perform back here at home. As the years have passed, so had my angst about returning to Beverly.
During my time away from MA-TF1, I would often refer to the Team in the possessive (“my team” or “we”). Others have noted that back in the early days of MA-TF1, it was easy to remember the names of all the players; today I am blown away at the number of both new and old faces I meet when I attend training sessions at the Cache (thankfully most of you wear name tags) and that I am both remembered and welcomed back to the fold.
I am humbled to have been afforded the opportunity to rejoin MA-TF1 as a member of the 2013 Recruit Class. I look forward to meeting and exceeding the expectations of the Team Managers as I rejoin this talented and dedicated group of Search, Rescue, Medical, Technical and Management professionals.
Technical Information Specialist Recruit