I was holding my 13 month old son when I turned on the TV and watched the towers hit, burn, and then collapse. I knew I would be called to deploy, and even though it was not with MA-TF 1 I did meet the team there at Ground Zero. I was a veterinary medical officer with VMAT-1 (Veterinary Medical Assistance Team-1). I drove to New York City as I had done countless times before, having done my residency and worked there from 1990-1994. But this time the truck was loaded with gear and 3 of my teammates. We were stopped by a state police officer, and he approached us with his hand on his gun. Sure glad I had a government ID.
At the Javitz Center I and a technician set up a K9 medical tent and treated search dogs for various medical and physical issues, 72 hours non-stop other than one brief nod-off in the chair. The President Bush meet and greet was surreal, and as soon as he left it was back to work. Then it was to Ground Zero and more dogs to check and treat.
I specifically remember gluing up pad lacerations on Moxie, owned by MA-TF search specialist Mark Aliberti. Mark was (and is) quite a character. He had been to other veterinarians but they told him Moxie would need time to heal and couldn’t work the pile. Mark told me ‘F that’, we are working, so what could I do for Moxie. I just looked at her and glued her back together, told Mark it would only hold for one shift, and to come back and I would do it again. Sure enough he was back later, looming over me as I bandaged Moxie’s paw, and with that Boston accent said ‘Hey Doc, thanks a lot. You get it. None ‘o those othas would do it so we could work but you did. You get it. See ya lata.’ It was, and still is to this day, the greatest compliment I have ever received.
I had never even heard of FEMA US&R teams. So during a break I made my way to where MA-TF 1 was stationed, introduced myself, asked to speak to their veterinarian, got some really weird looks, was told they didn’t have one, and asked if they wanted one. Mark Foster looked at me, smiled, and said to put in an application. It was a pivotal moment in time for me. Twelve years later I’m still here.
There wasn’t a lot to smile about that deployment, and I still tear up when I hear a New York song, but I am nonetheless grateful for the chance that brought me the opportunity to work with the best, MA-TF 1.
Lori E. Gordon, DVM
Massachusetts Task Force 1 (MA TF-1)
Urban Search & Rescue
43 Airport Road
Beverly, MA 01915
USAR Veterinary Group
National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT-1)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201