Posts Tagged With: FDNY

~ Are You Freaking Kidding Me??!! ~

“Lest We Ever Forget” has already been forgotten in many places across the nation.

“Are you freaking kidding me?”  You ask, having been watching several news clips about September 11th.

Yup. Case and point: My Captain spoke all day at our local middle school to 7th graders who were not even born when the attacks occurred, who had no real knowledge of the why’s and how’s of it all going down, and who really, to be honest, in their lack of understanding, did not care about it.  Apparently the 60 second news bits they had seen didn’t quite bring it to life for them.


But after My Captain spoke to them, and showed them the timeline, and his experiences there with Urban Search and Rescue, they all got VERY sober.


The whole room was bathed in quiet contemplation of a world that was different before terrorism came to our soil.  They listened respectfully about how so many innocent people died during our nation’s introduction to the new reality of domestic terrorism.


My Captain grows increasingly frustrated that “Lest We Ever Forget” is, in reality, being forgotten.  Being there is one thing, trying to bring children to that place with mere words and pictures is quite another.  You can tell them that the fire at the World Trade Center burned around 1500 degrees…and that we know this because it takes that much to bend steel…and you can try to explain why the people above the 77th floor or the 93th floor would rather jump than burn and suffocate….but it is just another story to them.  It could be another “Terminator” movie in its surreality.

How do you take those children back to that awful day?

On Facebook, I saw firefighters in other states lamenting that their children heard nothing but a passing paragraph in a history book of the tragic, life-changing, country-changing events of that hateful day.

And I realized that at some point, we have to do something to stop the growing apathy…because that will lead to ignorance…and that will lead to history repeating itself.

I’d like to find someone we could work with to videotape next year’s school visit for My Captain, so that when he can no longer share these experiences with the kids in person, his video could.   A video of his story could also be something that could be shared county-wide or further, because I don’t think our whole national school system is talking about this to the generations who were not there!

But until then, he feels his efforts aren’t enough.  He knows he’s swimming against the tide of apathy and ignorance of that fateful day.  He still tries his best, though.


And in the end, all you can do is have lunch with the kids after your lecture,

…and allow them to have their childhood back.

But Beloved, please know that, inadequate as it may seem to you, every time you go to that school and do your best to impart the history of that horrible, horrible day, you ARE honoring those firemen, and policemen, and innocent people who were murdered.  You honor their memories and their sacrifice.  You DO.

YOU have never forgotten, and those souls will always know that.

And to you, Dear Reader, if you agree that we mustn’t let this slip into sound bites and relative oblivion…if this moves you at all, or speaks to you on some level, will you please help spread the awareness and share this post?  No pressure.

Okay maybe a little pressure.

But not an uncomfortable amount.  Just enough to make you want to share.

Continue reading

Categories: Fire and Rescue, Urban Search and Rescue | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

~ Still Relevant ~

Today, the anniversary of the September, 11, 2001 attacks,


My Captain spent his morning at our local middle school talking to the tweens about that day, and terrorism, and rescue.  He talked about his role as the Task Force Leader of Maryland Task Force One’s, Urban Search and Rescue team.  He showed slides,


and gear,


and told stories…the real ones, not the ones spun by the media.  For the second year in a row, he spent his personal day off on this anniversary, trying to teach the up-and-coming generations some of the lessons our generation has learned.  Why?

Because he doesn’t want to repeat that kind of collapse rescue.

Desperately, he doesn’t want to repeat it.

He did the same thing last year, and the local news came and reported on it.  Here’s the link to that if you want to see My Captain on video:

It’s hard to convey to the next generation how our generation mourns the loss of innocence of America.   After all, they have never known an America that wasn’t constantly aware of the threat of terrorism.   How do you teach a group of people who are numbed by the violence in movies, television and media, that senseless acts like those of 9/11 are supposed to be rare?

Yesterday was My Captain’s normal shift at Fire Station 31, and in the late morning, he was called to a ‘bombing’ at our County Police and Fire Headquarters.

He and his crew spent a long hot morning essentially babysitting the area as the bomb technicians did their job.  Apparently a juvenile had set off an explosive device.   It didn’t hurt anyone, and by all accounts was fairly small.  But it was a bomb!  A stinkin’ bomb!  We’re not talking Mentos in a bottle of Sprite, either.  We’re talking a meant-to-hurt bomb.

When My Captain mentioned it to me later in the day…in an off-hand way…I was floored!  Why wasn’t this ALL OVER THE NEWS?!  The kind of mentality it takes to intentionally bomb a place…I can’t wrap my head around that anymore than I could wrap my brain around the events of 9/11.

But regardless of the ‘whys,’ and the ‘hows,’ and the ‘what-the-heck-was-the-kid-thinkings,’ one fact sticks glaringly out at me.  Here we are, a dozen years after that catastrophic loss of our country’s innocence, still dealing with this kind of thing, albeit on a smaller scale, right here in our backyards.  My Captain’s job as a rescuer is just as relevant now, as it was then.

And I fear, it always will be.

Categories: Fire and Rescue, Urban Search and Rescue | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

~ The Cost of Search And Rescue ~

See that guy with the clipboard?  Yeah, the one looking harassed and concerned.  That’s My Captain.  The love of my life.  Usually I am the one that puts that look on his face.  But this picture was taken during his deployment, as Rescue Manager with Maryland Task Force 1, to New Jersey and New York for Hurricane Sandy.


During this particular deployment, a few of the rescuers on his team suffered injuries.   It was easy to get injured at some of the places they went!


And, in fact, at least one of the injured is still recovering…he has not been able to work at all since Hurricane Sandy.


Fonzie is his name, and his story is in the post entitled Search and Rescue.  This is the sequel post!

If you can recall, Fonzie severely injured his foot and leg in that deployment.  This is a huge problem for a Search and Rescue dog.  They need to be nimble.  They need to be agile.  They need to be able to scramble, for heaven’s sake!  Otherwise they simply can’t do their job.  And their job plays a pivotal role in any search and rescue.

Why?  What is the big deal?  Why not just send in humans?

See this rubble pile at the Oklahoma City bombing?


This is a nasty rubble pile.  This was one of the first major responses for FEMA’s newly created National Urban Search and Rescue system.  And My Captain was there.


FEMA did not originally create the Task Forces to deal with terrorism related rescue.  They were, in fact, initially designed to respond to earthquakes and floods and hurricanes.  No one had envisioned ever needing to respond to terrorism here in the country.


But respond they did….with their rescue dogs…because they knew they couldn’t easily send men and women up these piles fast enough or efficiently enough when looking for viable victims.

They sent the dogs because they knew that the weight of human bodies might shift the rubble pile, potentially further endangering a viable victim, not to mention injuring the rescuers.

They knew and respected the fact that humans don’t have a dog’s excellent ability to sniff out life……or death.   (Yes, there are dogs that are trained to smell cadavers.)  Those amazing snouts are the perfect rescuing tool….so dogs became essential in FEMA search and rescue efforts.

Fast forward to September 11th, 2001.  Here the Task Forces again used dogs…both live-find and cadaver trained.


They were needed in the mess that was the Pentagon and also at Ground Zero.


My Captain was deployed to the Pentagon as the Task Force Leader for Maryland’s team.


There he is sporting a spanky, new safety vest as he gives the briefing for that day’s Pentagon rescue plan for Maryland’s Task Force.

The Search and Rescue Teams deployed to the Pentagon that day were greeted with an unholy mess and the daunting task of trying to find life in a still burning, jet-fuel puddled, fume laden, unstable mire of twisted steel and stone.


And they had to do it not so much on a rubble pile mountain like at the Oklahoma City Bombing, but rather within more of a confined space kind of rubble pile.  Look at the column on the right…it doesn’t look too stable does it?  Because it is not.  It is very, Very, VERY dangerous.


The dogs went in and began the search, while the Structural Engineers on the Task Force began designing the stabilization plan.


And stabilize, they did!


I’m not kidding when I call it an unholy mess.  But the dogs, the engineers,


and rescuers wasted no time getting down to business.  If life was there, they were going to find it.


Shoring up, sifting through, searching, searching, relentlessly searching……

Meanwhile up at Ground Zero, the challenge was a gigantic mountain of collapse and rubble rather than confined space collapse and rubble.  My Captain’s brother, a Lieutenant, was on that massive rubble pile with other parts of the Task Force.  (Do you think maybe My Captain’s parents are a tad proud? I sure would be if both of my sons were rescuers.)


But back to the dogs, this Golden Retriever is at Ground Zero actually getting ‘shuttled’ between the stories high mountains of rubble.  These dogs could go where humans could not.  They worked incredibly long hours…. It was exhausting.


Which brings us back to Fonzie.


Fonzie is a trained ‘live-find’ rescue dog… his handler, Victoria, (who is also a firefighter, EMT, wife to the Frederick City Police Chief, and mommy) trained Fonzie to smell live victims and bark like the dickens at them…even if they are buried deep within  the rubble.


They train and train and train, waiting for the next deployment.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, at the deployment to Hurricane Sandy, Fonzie got his foot stuck under a steel door.  As he thrashed about violently to get free, he severed important tissue and nerves in the toe.  He also managed to do damage to his rotator cuff, and other important parts of his leg.  He’s a mess, that pooch.

Understand that this is a dog who has been invested in heavily…HEAVILY…financially and temporally.   Oodles of time and money and training went into him..this is not a dog you just shrug off and say, “Next!” about.


Victoria has had the daunting task of trying to rehab Fonzie to the point where he can work again.  He’s gone through intense physical therapy, ultrasound therapy, water therapy…you name it.


And she is adamant that he wants to work. “Work = Happy” where Fonzie is concerned!  The dog wants to rescue!  Look at him.  It’s as if he’s saying, “All right!  All right!  Let me go already!  I can do this!  Let me WORK!”

But unfortunately, we just don’t know when that could happen.  He’s got a future full of more rehab, possibly more rather invasive surgery, and a lot of time before he can be back on a rubble pile.

And in this day and age, we certainly need him.

Heal fast, Fonzie!

Categories: Fire and Rescue, Urban Search and Rescue | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

~ Search and Rescue ~

During Maryland Task Force One’s deployment to Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, several of the team were injured, among them My Captain.

Don’t worry, he’ll live to rescue another day.

But unfortunately, another task force team member who was injured more seriously, has a long road of recovery ahead of him.

His name is Fonzie.

Fonzie and his handler, Victoria, had a harrowing ride during the week of the storm.

Fonzie’s paw got stuck under a metal door, and he cut the tendon and flesh of one of his toes.  He bled all over the place, and it looks like he will lose his toe.

This is a big deal.  Fonzie is not just a ‘dog.’

He’s a true search and rescuer, with extensive training (to the tune of about $15,000!).  He relies on his paws…and all the toes therein…to climb through rubble piles where humans could not.

Like Pierce here (with his handler, and all around great guy, Mike).  A dog’s toes are of the utmost importance when they are in search mode.

Except here.  Here he doesn’t need his toes so much.

Fonzie’s primary job is to sniff out live victims.  When he smells the scent of life, he knows to start barking like there is no tomorrow and NOT stop until someone comes.

….yes, just like Lassie.

Victoria has been with Fonzie since he graduated search and rescue training.  He goes with her wherever she goes.

They are with each other 24/7.  He’s not a pet.  He’s not a co-worker.  He’s part of her life!

Victoria is a firefighter, an EMT, Fonzie’s handler,

a mommy,

and a wonderful wife (to hunk of a husband and Frederick Police Chief, Tom). But what amazes me (as if all of that is not enough…) is that throughout ALL of this, she maintains her true femininity (unlike your dear writer).

I’m serious.  I look at her face and I think, ‘Va Va Voom!’.  She’s got the classic female lines…fantastic eyes…kick ass smile…exudes confidence and strength.

I want to be her.  Somebody make that happen for God’s sake.

Back to the deployment to New York and New Jersey a couple of weeks ago…. Victoria says that while Fonzie did not have any saves this deployment, per se, he did absolutely make a difference.  How?  Apparently the victims would see Fonzie and get down on their knees and just bury their faces into his neck, sobbing with grief.  And Fonzie comforted as only a dog can.  She said Fonzie was the biggest balm I could possibly imagine.

I had never considered that.  But it certainly makes sense, doesn’t it?

To be a handler of a true Search and Rescue Canine requires an unbelievable amount of commitment and training.  Victoria’s life is so damn full, I wondered why she does it.

And then it struck me…  She does it for two reasons.  1) Because she has the very selfless heart of a hero, and 2.)


Categories: Fire and Rescue, Urban Search and Rescue | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

~ Coming Out of It Alive ~

My Captain came home today from his Hurricane Sandy deployment with Maryland Task Force One’s Urban Search and Rescue Team!

They helped many.  They experienced much.  They slept not at all.

And we missed him awfully.

We sat around the dinner table tonight for the first time in too long, and listened to the stories of his adventures….

….and his misadventures.

This little doozy happened last Wednesday, apparently.  “Merely a flesh wound!” was his explanation.   Sheepishly he told the tale of a slight miscalculation, broken auto-glass, and a resulting new scar.  Oh, and something about most likely being teased for the remainder of his career.

Because the fireservice, if nothing else, is compassionate and forgiving.

Look at Varmint’s and Critter’s faces as My Captain talks about his deployment.   These children have never known the kind of hardship he is describing having witnessed.   I hope they never do.

During the media blitzkrieg of Hurricane Sandy, one thing has been bothering me.   I’ve seen stories about destruction, about heartbreak, and about misery.   But what I haven’t seen covered in the media is that fact that this storm….the most enormous storm in history….resulted in relatively few deaths.  Even compared to Hurricane Katrina, which was by all accounts a much smaller meteorological phenomena.  Yes, the structural devastation was incomprehensible, but what was destroyed was exactly that….WHATs.  Not near as many WHOs.   Lives were saved.  Incredibly in one of the most densely populated areas in our country…we did not experience thousands of deaths.

Why aren’t we talking about that as well?

There are a ton of negative aspects of this storm, yes.  Lives were lost…horribly, tragically. But by far most everyone came out of this thing ALIVE.

Why aren’t we focusing on that, too?

I look around the table at the loves of my life and I ask myself, “If we lost everything, but still had each other, would it be enough?”

My husband, my children, my mother…..


Categories: Family, Fire and Rescue, Urban Search and Rescue | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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