Thursday, September 13, 2001

Local firefighters on task force joining rescue efforts

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Judy Thomas got the hurried call from her husband, Ed, at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. He was on a cell phone, somewhere between Ohio and New York, on a bus with dozens of other rescue workers.

        Mr. Thomas, a captain with the Green Township Fire Department and a member of Ohio Task Force 1, was one of 17 local firefighters headed for Manhattan to help search for survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

        They are among a growing number of Tristate American Red Cross workers, canine search teams and military medical personnel being deployed to New York to help in relief and rescue efforts following the attack.

        Besides locating survivors, the firefighters also will help recover the bodies of those who died — some of them fellow firefighters — in the country's worst terrorist attack.

        On Wednesday, the phone was silent at the Thomas residence in Green Township.

        To make matters worse, the family computer was on the fritz. That made it impossible for Mrs. Thomas and her children to get an update from a Web site designed to keep families posted on task force activities.

        “He just said, "I'll call you as soon as I can, but I can't tell you when that will be,'” Mrs. Thomas said.

        “It's the not knowing that's the hard part,” she said. “I'm not concerned for his safety. I was. I know he would not put himself in any danger. But, he would do his job.”

        The Ohio task force team — which includes firefighters from Cincinnati, Madeira-Indian Hill and Green, Anderson, Colerain and Sycamore townships — is one of 28 Federal Emergency Management Agency urban search and rescue task forces that are capable of responding to massive structural collapses.

        The team of 72 members from the Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton areas arrived at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey at 6:15 a.m. Wednesday and were expected to be at the World Trade Center site some time in the afternoon, said task force spokesman Scott Hall. They are scheduled to be in New York for at least 10 days.

        For Capt. Thomas, a 21-year veteran firefighter well trained in search and rescue, the trip was his first serious national disaster.

        His wife is concerned about the emotional toll it will take on him and his colleagues.

        “The hardest part for them, I think, will be pulling out the dead firefighters,” Mrs. Thomas said.

        “Other people are important. But, when it's your own kind, it's going to touch them a lot more.”
        David Eck contributed to this report.


At a glance
Attacks are topic No. 1 in classrooms
Body recovery part of work of NYC crews
Constituents' emotions unmitigated
Different faiths, all drawn to pray
Family clings to details of missing woman's fate
Jews seek normalcy
- Local firefighters on task force joining rescue efforts
Muslims urged to give aid
No date, time for nation's air travel to resume
Outpouring of donations keeps blood supply steady
Relatives wait for word, pray
Stranded travelers find help in Florence
Tightened air security will be norm
Travelers wait, pray in deserted airport
Work resumes, but life is different
Wright-Patterson medical personnel join effort
PULFER: Cell phones
RADEL: Tristate sprouts flying flags
Reports bring sweep of river
Court upholds stay for Byrd
Luken suggests raises for cadets
Luken unused to second place
Primary results
Council halts bid for road-extension vote
Superintendent's contract extended
Tristate A.M. Report
Woman shot outside school as it lets out