Friday, October 19, 2001

Relief workers return after two weeks at WTC

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        At ground zero — the epicenter of the terrorist strike at the World Trade Center in New York City — rescue workers still dig through debris and rubble, removing bodies and body parts.

        Mounds of steel, concrete and bricks continue to wear down the thousands of workers who toil each day.

[photo] David Hersh (left), a disaster coordinator with the Salvation Army, walks with his wife, Theresa, Thursday at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport. Mr. Hersh and other area relief workers returned from two weeks of duty at the World Trade Center.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        But the burden doesn't end there.

        The emotional toll can be just as great as the heavy lifting, according to the Salvation Army's Greater Cincinnati Disaster Services relief workers, who flew back to Cincinnati Thursday after a 10-day tour there.

        “I was taking coffee to workers in the morgue, which is right there on the site, and you could almost reach out and touch the bodies,” Michael Kelley, one of the relief workers, said. "It just wears you down.”

        David Hersh, who has been the coordinator of the Salvation Army's disaster services in Cincinnati for the past 16 years, said he, Mr. Kelley and another disaster team member traveled to New York with six pastors from different parts of Ohio.

        Once there, they manned feeding tents, handing out meals and drinks to workers. And they offered on-site counseling to those who told stories of grief and pain, of digging through the rubble only to find family and friends dead.

        “Basically there are 6,000 sad stories there,” Mr. Hersh said, referring to the estimated death toll. "All you can do is listen, and tell them how proud you are of them and their effort.”

        But such encouragement opens only a small crack in the cloud of death and despair that continues to ravage the psyche of New Yorkers and rescue workers, he said.

        "I think at this point, the numbness is starting to wear off and reality is starting to set in,” Mr. Hersh said. "I think the people of New York are beginning to realize that they have quite a job ahead of them.”

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