A little background, I became involved with the Massachusetts Task Force – 01 from working and attending the Barnstable County Fire and Rescue Academy. At the fire academy I was involved with the “Rescue Technician” course.. assisting and mostly doing ” Logistics” and adjunct instructing. ( KUDO’s to our Logs guys..many members have no idea how much work is involved behind the scenes,..when they simply grab a tool and go work!!)
I laugh and jokingly tell people I meet today that when the team started the application process was simply
(1) Do you have a helmet?
(2) Can you operate a “Hammer”
and basically you were on the team..we trained regularly each month in Beverly at the Shoe.
I went to Technical Search Specialist school in 1998 and originally trained with “state of the art” pole cameras.. a Zenith 5″ television strapped to my chest and a 12 lb battery backpack,we had surplus everything from Sears and Roebuck 1/2″ drills to borrowed electric jack hammers . I remember getting the team acquiring US Army surplus Green Canvas G.P. Medium tents and at one of our monthly drills Mark Foster asked me ” Hey Bob you were in the military can you help coordinate the set up of that,..seeing a few large piles of canvas with more wooden circus size tent poles then Ive ever seen .. trying to coordinate many members who are non – military can be downright humorous.. eventually we set up the tent..Taking it down, marking the poles and repacking..well thats another story for another time…..
On Sept 11 2001 I was attending a Firefighter survival class in Harwich Massachusetts. The class was sponsored by the Massachusetts Fire Academy ..at some point during the morning presentation..the first tower was hit..Harwich had a rear projection screen-and the large screen filled with billowing smoke appeared to be quite a fire that FDNY had to deal with..we joked and seriously discussed about Firefighting Strategies.. .never realizing the the countless lives that would be lost that single day. I used the FD phone to call Tom Kenney and tried numerous times only to get a busy signal and kept checking my belt motorola phone pager ( yea– many of our new members probably never seen a simple pager or even know what a busy signal is..!)
Then the First tower fell ,..when my pager went off with the Task Force Number. It must have shown on my face, as a past team member Rob Sanders asked me if I was ok ?,, I called Tom Kenney and asked ” Are we going?” and Tom replied..simply with no excitement or emotion “Yes”…keep in mind as we all become closer ,we all joke constantly with our friends on and off the phones,in person,on Facebook, and texts , I would hope you can all apprehend the eerie silent understanding.
I left the class ,went home ,I called my parents knowing I wouldn’t be able to stop by for a hug and told them I was going to New York..my mom said ” God will watch over all of you”. I called the mother of my children and told her I was going ( we were separated) she was crying and asked me not to go..I remember nervously joking that I would stay home if she agreed to drop me paying child support.. we both chuckled and I told her to inform the kids when they got home from school and I would call ASAP.. my son was 12 and my daughter was 10…for a brief moment I wondered if I would ever see them again..Tom had already left for Beverly..I heard about the Second tower and possible other terrorism.. I was wondering if I should bring a firearm ( 22 years US Army retired ) ( strict rules on the task force “NO FIREARMS” )..the thought did cross my mind.
I remember driving over the Sagamore Bridge and looking over and seeing a middle eastern man driving a Ryder Rental truck and thinking of the Oklahoma Bombing.. At times I remember my teeth chattering.. I began reviewing my START Triage in my head thinking of the countless injuries and fatalities we were to face,, from home to the cache and to New York was the longest ride of my life..I made promises to God that day,,but knowing I was with the professionals I had trained with, in the back of my mind also gave me comfort.
I remember a 10 ft pole impaled through a cars roof and a jet engine on the sidewalk as we approached the scene the next morning, crowds cheering like the Calvary was there..and each day after that I always became a little more humbled when we passed the crowds ..because the live rescues were over before we arrived..and I hoped that the next day we would bring a miracle…sadly not the case
Today we have top of the line equipment and heartfelt committed highly trained members..we don’t do this for the money,we do it simply because its what we do best
I was proud to be there and am grateful for all I have today..
Robert Reardon TSS