World Trade Center Deployment, 2001

On 9/11/01, the Seattle area was awakened to the terrible news of a catastrophe occurring in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. I sent my kids off to school, watched the unending footage on the news, and wondered whether our task force would be deployed, and to which site. As it turned out, Washington Task Force One would be sent in a week later as part of the second wave of responding teams. After about two hours of sleep on our arrival day, Kita and I reported to the forward Base of Operations near the Trade Center, and I got my first glimpse of the devastation. To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. I wondered whether Kita and I were up to the task. We had never trained on anything approaching the scale of this rubble pile, and the hazards were daunting. As it turned out, Kita had no qualms about climbing over, under and through the rubble—all her agility training had proven itself.

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As to our mission of searching for live victims, it was not to be. Although my head told us that no one could still be alive after a week in that terrible, smoking pile of debris, my heart ached for just one living person to be found. Instead, Kita and I turned to the job of recovery of the remains of those trapped in the rubble. She was able to successfully locate remains in several locations, and I sincerely hope that identification through DNA was possible, for the sake of the family and friends left behind. After six days of working at the site, I left New York City with ambivalent feelings of sadness and grief over the loss of life, relief at the prospect of heading home and regret that we couldn’t do more to help. But I also have wonderful memories of the support of the everyday citizens there, who showed their immense strength of heart in the midst of unimaginable tragedy. Kita and I arrived home ten days after we had left, proud to have been a part of the recovery effort and feeling more than ever that our training had purpose.

By Jane David