|Maryland Search and Rescue Crew Returns from Pentagon to a Hero's Welcome
By Penny Riordan
Capital News Service
Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2001
ROCKVILLE - The 70 members of Montgomery County's Urban Search and
Rescue Team got a hero's welcome Tuesday as they returned home after a
week of digging -- in vain -- for survivors in the rubble of the
About 200 friends and family members broke into chants of "U.S.A., U.S.A" as the team members stepped off buses at the county Public Safety
Training Academy, where children held "Welcome Home Dad" signs and many
waved American flags.
"His kids are proud of him. We're all proud of him," said Tina Dean of
Laurel, Md., whose husband, Mike, works with the search and rescue team.
The team was dispatched to the Pentagon last week, hours after
terrorists flew a hijacked American Airlines jetliner into the building,
killing everyone on board and leaving 125 in the building dead or
"It was horrific mess," said rescue team member Stephen Jones, of the
scene at the Pentagon. Jones, who lives in Pasadena, Md., said the scene was
"a whole lot bigger magnitude" than anything he had ever seen.
The team is made up of firefighters, paramedics and civilians who are
trained in highly specialized areas of rescue, particularly building
collapse. It has been called to disasters such as hurricanes and the
bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Team members worked 12-hour shifts for a week, digging through the
rubble of the Pentagon, which was still burning for days after they
Mike Dean described the time at the Pentagon as "up and down. We had
good days, and we had bad days. But we had to do what we had to do."
Some of the rescuers -- dressed in navy blue jumpsuits with American
flag patches, knee-high black combat boots, blue hats and sunglasses --
choked up when they talked about their experiences. They admitted it was
hard being there.
"But we're all here because we love doing it," Dean said. "The work
itself takes you away from why we're there."
Those who greeted them Tuesday hailed the team members as heroes.
"You did Montgomery County proud, you did yourselves proud, and you did
the nation proud. Thank you for everything you've done," said Montgomery
County Executive Douglas Duncan.
They also made family members proud, said Rep. Connie Morella,
"They [families] are so filled with pride and grateful to have them
come home," said Morella of the team members, who she called
"extraordinary people. They really are heroes."
Most family members brushed aside any worries they may have
experienced during the week, admitting it was hard but nothing compared
to the losses other families experienced.
Joyce Jones described how she had to explain to her young son that it
was part of his father's job to be in such a dangerous place.
"He saw the Pentagon on TV. He said, 'I think my Daddy's there,' " she said.
But while she acknowledged that she did fear for her husband's safety
throughout the week, she recognized that it could have been worse.
"I feel bad for the wives whose husbands won't come home," Jones said.
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