That morning I was sitting on the 16th floor of 100 Federal Street working away in my cubical on budgets for the following year when I received a call telling me that a plane had hit one of the towers. Like so many others, I assumed it was a site seeing plane that got too close. When was then told a second plane hit the other tower, I again naively believed it was most likely the media getting things wrong again. I could not conceive of the possibility of what the reality was and when asked if we would be deployed, I too recalled the bomber that hit the Empire State building and merely replied, “Naah, FDNY never calls for help, they send help to others, like the time they sent crews for station coverage in Worcester!” Then the word of the Pentagon being hit…this was not just the media exaggerating the situation, something was going on. I emailed the unfinished budgets to the GM, went and found him to tell him I was going to go to grab my gear and head to the Beverly to see if there was anything I could help with. He wished me luck, he was in the process of finding volunteers to stay at work, because the top executives thought it would be a good idea to get all their top decision makers in one place so they could make quick decisions, and they thought having the command center in their tallest building was the best place. The commute out of Boston was surreal. There was no traffic to speak of. There was a steady stream of people coming out of all the buildings heading to the train station. All were quiet as we walked under the most beautiful blue sky. Getting on the train, no fares were collected, people moved all the way in and the train moved out as soon as it was full. Again all were quiet, all looked anxious. When I got to my car and turned on the radio, the report of the first tower coming down added to my anxiousness. I remember the feeling of helplessness that this horribble thing was happening and there was nothing I could do. Then the page came in. “MATF1 is being deployed, report to the Cache, This is not a drill” At that moment a calm came over me, I turned off the radio and turned my focus on the mission. I did not know if I would be going out the door, but I knew that there was now something I could do to help. I knew that I would grab my gear and go to Beverly. That I would help load or anything else that I was asked. If I went out the door I would be ready and if I was asked to stay behind I would be ready to do what ever I could to help our team perform it’s mission. That deployment bought into focus for me, the importance of how our team trains together, of the passion and dedication of so many on the team. It showed me that during training that it is it is not as important to follow the plan as it is to be able to alter the plan when needed to get the job done quickly and safely. I saw first hand how being the team that will do what ever it is asked to, even if it is sweeping up trash, will build the relationships needed to get to work and be able to do more good in the end.
After the Deployment, I had many people ask me about what it was like and how they could get involved with responding to disaster. I will politely make suggestions on different organizations they could join and often they will reply with something in the line of, “oh that sounds like too much time, I just want to be able to help during the emergency, cant I just volunteer then?” I just smile because I know they will never get it.
I am proud and honored to be on MATF1. I am thankful for all that each of you bring and share on the team, whether it is in training or on a deployment. For me, remembering 9/11 is as much about being ready for the next time as it is for remembering the past.
Fritz White, Rescue Specialist, D Squad