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Mr. Chairman and members, my name is Captain Jeffrey Metzinger. I am employed with the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District and a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Team. Specifically, I am a member of California's Task Force 7 (CA-TF7) team based in Sacramento, California.
I was dispatched to New York City as a part of the search and rescue efforts in response to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to share my hands-on experience as a heavy rigger/rescue specialist during eleven arduous days beginning on September 11, 2001.
The fire service and other emergency services are critical to the mission of protecting our communities. The events of September 11, 2001 have demonstrated that first responders offer the best possible chance of saving lives during catastrophic events. First responders must be adequately equipped and trained to perform the jobs under the most adverse conditions. Domestic terrorism is a relatively new threat to citizens of the United States - and we will need Federal support to be adequately prepared. Terrorist attacks may occur in many different and unconventional ways: chemical, biological, hazardous materials, weapons of mass destruction, to cite a few.
US&R teams are designed to provide supervision and control of essential functions at incidents where technical rescue expertise and equipment are required for safe and effective rescue operations. The Federal Government, through FEMA, has established twenty-eight (28) National US&R Task Forces throughout the nation. US&R Task Forces are able to deploy within six hours of notification.
Each US&R Task Force is comprised of 62 persons specifically trained and equipped for large complex urban search and rescue operations. The multi-disciplinary organization provides five functional elements which include command, search, rescue, medical and technical. The US&R Task Force is totally self-sufficient for the first 72 hours and has a full equipment cache to support its operation. Transportation and logistical support is provided by either State or Federal resources.
The US&R Task Force can provide round-the-clock operations (two 12-hour shifts). The five functional elements in detail are:
* Search - includes physical, canine and electronic (special cameras and listening equipment)
* Rescue - conduct rescue operations in all types of structures
* Medical - primarily responsible for the care and treatment of task force members and entrapped victims during extrications
* Technical - provides personnel competent in structural integrity assessments, hazardous materials, heavy equipment and rigging, communications and logistics.
* Command - the US&R Task Force is commanded by a Task Force Leader. The Task Force Leader is assisted by a Safety Officer and Plans Officer.
Almost all members of an US&R Task Force are firefighter rescue specialists. Many members have multiple abilities that allow them to work in a variety of positions. My specific role is defined as "heavy rigging specialist" on CA -TF7. The heavy rigger has expertise in moving large objects (like steel and concrete). Typically, the heavy rigger coordinates rescue operations between team members and heavy equipment such as cranes. At the World Trade Center incident, heavy riggers were an integral part of the rescue operation. I kept a small notebook in my pocket and chronicled our efforts to assist the firefighters, police officers, and citizens of New York City. The following are excerpts from my personal journal on the devastating events beginning on September 11, 2001.
Tuesday, September 11
(6:15 am - Pacific Standard Time)
I was on my way to work like so many others when I heard on the news on the radio that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I raced into the office where I currently work as a Training Officer for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. Within minutes, I heard that a plane had crashed into the other Tower as well - and that news changed everything. It was obvious that these actions were no accident.
Captain Steve Cantelme (a co-worker) and myself are both members of FEMA's California Task Force 7. We realized that our team would likely be deployed to New York City. Our Team's rescue cache is located across town and other team members were already in route to prepare for a deployment. The forklift used to load our large rescue pallets was not with the cache. It was being used in a Rescue Systems class several miles from where it needed to be. We quickly hired a transport truck and escorted our forklift across town in rush-hour traffic. (A second forklift would have been highly useful.)
CA-TF7 arrived at Fire Station 9 where our rescue cache is stored. There is a great deal of activity as our team gets official word that we are responding to New York City. There is a lot of tension in the air and everyone is hurrying to move 62 people and tons of rescue equipment onto 3 truck and trailers and 3 buses.
CA-TF7 leaves Station 9 for Travis Air Force Base. There are lots of other CA-TF7 members who helped get us out of town. They all wanted to go with us - but only 62 people are deployed. Interstate 80 is closed by the Highway Patrol as we get a code 3 (red lights and sirens) escort to Travis. I finally have a minute to reflect on what is going on. Tragedy awaits us and I already miss my wife and daughter. We get word that both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have been attacked by hijacked civilian airplanes.
We're waiting at Travis Air Force Base to load on the plane. Sitting in a chair, I realize how hungry I am. I haven't eaten since last night.
We get a briefing from the Task Force Leader. We will be flying into a crime scene. Everyone is advised to document their activities when we finally get to work. Our Task Force is divided into two teams - Gray and Blue. I'm assigned to the Blue team as "heavy rigger". Captain Jay Coon will be my counterpart on the Gray team. I will report to Marc Bentevoja who is the Blue team Rescue Manager.
We are loaded onto a USAF C-5 Galaxy and our destination is McGuire AFB in New Jersey. Security has been intense all day.
We are served a delicious box lunch on the plane. I ate everything except the box.
We are "wheels-up" from Travis ARB. I'm too anxious to sleep. An Air Force crewmember informs us that we have a 4 fighter jet escort to the east coast. It sinks in how treacherous this assignment really is.
Wednesday, September 12
(2:13 am East Coast Time)
We land at McGuire AFB after a 4 1/2 hour flight. The plane is quiet. You can feel the anxiety in the air.
We are provided a bed for about 3 hours of sleep.
Breakfast is served in the dining hall.
There is a morning briefing from the Task Force Leaders. The word is that we will be waiting a while. Everyone is reminded that security is at its highest level. We are not to wander or go anywhere alone.
Buses arrive for our transport to New York City. Our bus is searched by military dogs after we board. Everyone's identification is checked again.
We are finally leaving for New York City. Everyone is anxious to get to work.
As we approach the Hudson River from New Jersey, you can see a large column of smoke coming up from the site where the World Trade Center used to stand. This is my first trip to New York City, and I feel sad by what I see.
We have arrived in New York City. Traffic is incredible, even with a full police escort. The corners are filled with people. We are just a few blocks away from the large smoke column I had seen earlier.
We arrive at the Javits Convention Center where we will set up our base of operations. There are several other teams coming in as well. They include teams from: Los Angeles City, Missouri, Indianapolis, Riverside (Ca.), and Pennsylvania. It takes most of the evening to get our cache unloaded and our area organized for an extended stay.
Thursday, September 13
There are two physicians that are a part of our team. One of their jobs is to keep other team members healthy. Averaging about 3 hours of sleep per day, I took a sleeping pill to get some rest.
Up for breakfast. Looks like we're gearing up to work at the "site" this morning.
Gray team will be working the day shift. They are deployed out to the site. Members of the blue team will relieve the Gray team this evening.
Blue team is loaded onto the bus and we head into our "sector' to go to work. We meet up with the Gray team and exchange information. We take a brief tour of the collapse zone along Church Street. The scene is surreal. There are people everywhere. Smoke continues to drift from massive piles of rubble. The expanse of this disaster is difficult to comprehend. Our forward base of operations is located in a garage on the bottom floor of
an office building at West Broadway and Park. Several searches are conducted by our search dogs in the vicinity of Tower 7. The technical search camera is also used. We had no luck in finding any victims.
Friday, September 14
Our team is working the area for an assignment. The dogs have alerted - but at a very dangerous location. It is too unstable to enter. There is heavy thunder, lightening, wind, and heavy rains tonight.
We're back at the Javits Center for breakfast and then 3 1/2 hours of sleep.
Briefing form the Task Force Leader. We are told that President Bush will be visiting. Secret service is everywhere and dogs are searching through our stuff.
Met and shook hands with President Bush and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Governor and Mayor were also in attendance. This was quite an experience! Their visit was very much appreciated.
Briefing for night operations. We will be moving to the Church and Dey Street Command Post where we will be working with the Massachusetts Task Force.
On the bus headed to work. Hundreds of people line the streets and cheer us as we go by. Traffic is so congested, we get off bus and walk the last few blocks to Church and Dey.
Tonight, I'm assigned to our technical search team. Our rescue team is setting up a rope system to lower one of the rescue team members into the debris crater near the Church St. command post. The objective is to place a cellular phone antennae to assist with victim locations.
Saturday, September 15
We are released for the sector for the evening. Everyone on the team is anxious to do something to help.
We had a visit from the New York Yankees. They thanked us and we thanked them. Seems that everyone wants to help.
Headed back to work. People are still lining the streets - cheering, waving flags, holding signs, lighting candles.
The search and rescue teams are out to complete searches of all the building in our sector. There are several 30+ story buildings around the World Trade Center plaza. The searches are conducted from basement to roof. Every door is opened, and every space is checked. Climbing the stairwells, we take on one building at a time. Many walls facing the plaza have sustained serious damage. We do not find any victims. Every floor of every building we search is marked as being completed. This assignment took a toll on the legs.
Relieved by the day crew. We return to base for some rest.
We get a briefing for the next work period. Three top FDNY Chiefs are laid to rest today. We are to be moving into more dangerous ground today between buildings 5 and 6 (possibly underground). Drawings show up to 6 levels below street grade. Chaplain Ward Cockerton says a prayer for the victims of this disaster and for the safety of our team.
Reported to the Church and Dey Command Post and began work as a heavy rigger. Steve of the Massachusetts TF1 and I worked with 4 New York iron-workers. Using a 90-ton crane, we worked all night non-stop moving steel.
Sunday, September 16
Back to work at with the crane and a new group of iron workers. Made a connection with Mike, Rich, and Kevin. They are good people. We cut and moved tons of steel again tonight.
Monday, September 17
I found a child's doll in the rubble. I miss my family a bunch. I heard our rescue team found a victim this morning - a police officer. Hopes for a live rescue seem to be dimming.
Back to Javits Center for some rest.
We're on the bus back to the work site. I'm tired already. Headed back to the crane. We work all night moving steel. I have noticed after several nights that there is very little debris that is recognizable. There are no desks, chairs, carpet, sheetrock, or anything else you would associate with an office building - just the steel structure. There are still no victims discovered in the immediate area.
Tuesday, September 18
We're back to the Javits center for a sleeping pill. It worked.
On the pile again moving steel and searching for victims. Today, the smell of death is more evident. I found a business card of man whose office was on the 83rd floor of one of the towers. I wondered what his fate was. I said a prayer for him, hoping he's alive and well.
Wednesday, September 19
The crane operation is halted at midnight in order to make preparations for a larger crane to move in. It looks like a 300-ton crane will be ready to go within 24 hours. The reach and capability will improve our efforts. While the crane is shut down, I joined forces with some FDNY people. There were two Battalion Chiefs with their sleeves rolled up working along side us. We were moving debris by hand. It's a very solemn night.
Waiting for relief team...tired, tired, tired.
Thursday, September 20
We're heading home today. It takes all day to pack our equipment and load onto transport trucks.
We're sitting on the bus waiting to return to McGuire AFB in New Jersey. It's been a long 10 days. I'm exhausted, and the team physician has diagnosed me with bronchitis.
The dust we have been breathing all week finally caught up with me. Many others on the team have the same complaints of headache, sore throat, sinus congestion, and sometimes fever. Everybody is troubled that we didn't find any live victims.
We have arrived at McGuire AFB. Security is still very high. Everyone is carrying automatic weapons.
Getting sicker by the minute. The team physician has me on antibiotics, Sudafed, sleeping pill and albuterol inhaler.
Friday, September 21
On board a 757, North American Airlines with the Task Force teams from Riverside and Los Angeles, California.
We drop off the Riverside and Los Angeles Team in southern California.
We land at Travis AFB in northern California. We have a full police and fire escort for the drive back to Sacramento. Every freeway overpass along the way is full of fire engines, police cars, and citizens cheering us home. It was a very warm reception.
We arrive in Sacramento to a huge gathering of family, friends, co-workers, dignitaries, and the media. For the people of Sacramento, we were their connection to the tragedy in New York City. It felt very good to be home, but I felt like a part of me was still in New York City.
When I go to sleep, I still dream about being there.
Additional support of the Federal Government is necessary to save lives during future catastrophic events. Our citizens and first responder's lives will depend upon our efforts to be proactive and prepare. The following list identifies some of the areas that need to be addressed:
· Expand local resources (fire, emergency medical services, law enforcement)
· Increase support for the Urban Search and Rescue Program
· Improve radio communications among Task Forces and local resources
· Provide additional chemical/biological protective equipment and related training for fire and EMS first responders
· Support and integrate the actions of local fire and EMS resources and FEMA teams in response to domestic terrorism and other disasters
Firefighters, law enforcement, and emergency medical services will continue to be the first responders at future incidents. The toll on our emergency personnel is tremendous, both physically and mentally. We owe it to ourselves to be prepared for the mission to protect our communities.
I appreciate the opportunity to provide comment and share my experience as a firefighter search and rescue specialist during this infamous event. I am available to answer any questions that members of this committee may have.
Jeffrey L. Metzinger, Captain
Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District and
Member of FEMA's California Task Force 7
U.S. Government Website