YOUNGSTOWN Disaster leaves imprint on Valley paramedics

The crew worked three days in New York at ground zero.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Local paramedics who assisted in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center in New York say they have returned home with memories that will last a lifetime.
The evening of Sept. 11, hours after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, seven Rural Metro Ambulance units containing 14 paramedics and one critical-incident stress specialist headed for New York.
Phil Steele, Rural Metro disaster relief coordinator, said the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested all of the 40 Rural Metro trucks that were used in New York this past week.
Four of the Youngstown units were stationed at ground zero of the attack to assist firefighters and other rescue personnel by attending to the rescuers' bruises, breathing problems and irritated eyes, caused by the flying dust. Steele and the paramedics witnessed the recovery of bodies and the rescuing of victims.
"I drove down to ground zero ... and it was just unbelievable, unimaginable to see a 110-story building reduced to about 10 stories of rubble," Steele said.
"To realize the amount of hatred that must have been instilled in the individuals who made all this happen -- for me it is hard to believe that that level of hatred actually exists."
Reception: Steele, however, is quick to point out that love and patriotism are healing wounds.
When the paramedics first reached the city, they were greeted by cheering New Yorkers with signs of thanks to all for helping in the aftermath of the attacks. Strangers told the crew, "We love you for all you are doing."
Those sentiments turned into actions by everyday citizens during the crews' three-day stint in the city. Individuals worked tirelessly to see that emergency crews were fed and prepared for to work their long shifts in the recovery effort.
Steele said two woman in a Chevy Blazer quietly pulled up to a rescue site Wednesday and unloaded a long table on which they placed trays of food of every variety for the rescue workers. When the trays were empty, the women left and returned with another load.
Steele said it was later learned that an entire apartment complex had gotten together and fixed food to keep the crew going.
The Rural Metro crew stopped at a roadside cafe on the way home from New York on Friday, Steele said. The owner told the group their meal would be half-price, but an elderly couple a few tables away pulled out a credit card and said, "We will be taking care of the rest."

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