Monday, December 9, 2013

The Game Warden Files--911, Part 2

Our Firearms Instructor school ended the Friday after the attack on the the Trade Center. We were done by noon, and on the road to our respective homes very shortly thereafter. Within a half hour of leaving the academy, my lieutenant was on the phone with me; we had both been ordered to report to the staging are for the department's Ground Zero response by the next evening.
The next day I was southbound. My assignment for the week was to serve as a boat operator; but the boat I was to have been running had broken down and would not be back in service until later in the week--maybe. So, they reassigned me to communication and transportation as I still had some knowledge of the city from my years there.
We had our briefing Saturday evening and according to schedule I was supposed to go to work at 6:00 AM Sunday. Our residence was a hotel about 30 miles north of the DEC office in Queens. It was almost spooky to drive from there toward the city the next morning. There was no traffic, not a sign of an aircraft in the sky, the dominating thing in my vision, even at that distance, was the plume of smoke and dust still rising from Ground Zero.
When I reported for duty, I was told that my schedule had been changed and I wasn't due there until 4:00 PM. Rather than go back and spend time alone in a hotel, I decided to spend it with family. It was my my church family at Bethel Evangelical Free Church on Staten Island.
It was a bit early so the chains were still across the driveway when I arrived, so I parked and busied myself in paperwork. Before long, a car pulled up and the driver got out and removed the chains. She looked at me quizzically as I got out of my car, in my uniform. Though we hadn't lived there in years, we'd kept in touch with many folks there, visiting occasionally, so we weren't strangers to everyone. When she recognized me and I explained why I was there, she asked if I recalled a specific family in the church. Apparently they'd come after we'd left, so I did not know the name. She told me that the husband and dad of the family had been one of the first wave of firefighters to go into the building. His body had not yet been recovered.
As I mingled with old friends before church, someone brought the wife of that hero up to me and introduced her to me. It remains one of the few times in my life I was speechless. She looked at me and softly said "It's OK, you don't have to say anything, we know where he is." Her husband was a solid Christian and there was no doubt in her mind that she would be reunited with him.
After a great, though emotional, church service, I had lunch with friends and then headed to begin my work assignment.

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