Remembering 9/11

Search and Rescue Efforts

Scott Baxter, who had previously worked as a volunteer firefighter and was experienced in search and rescue efforts, immediately contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to offer his assistance. He was deployed to the site of the World Trade Center, or Ground Zero, where he began working the night of Wednesday, September 12.

“I was right in the heart of the matter as part of the bucket brigade—a line of workers sifting through debris by hand and loading it into buckets, which were passed up the line and dumped elsewhere,” Baxter explains. “It was obviously a very traumatic event. There was an enormous amount of death and destruction.”

4223A firefighter stands in the rubble at Ground Zero.

Shaun Parry also searched the rubble at Ground Zero. He gets emotional as he tries to describe the devastation. But at the same time, he says, “I’ve never felt that kind of camaraderie. There was an amazing energy of love and brotherhood. On the rare occasion when someone yelled, ‘We found one!’ everyone cheered. During the time I was there, we found nine people.”

While Parry had no training in search and rescue, the Broadway performer utilized his dance talents in a way he could never have imagined. “In one area, there was a bunch of rebar sticking out of the concrete in such a way that you couldn’t really get through it. But because I was much more limber than the firefighters, I was able to slip through, where I found this huge cavern underneath the surface.”

Earning the nickname “Spider-Man,” Parry searched the caverns deep below the surface with a fiber optic scope. At one point, as he was calling out for anyone who might be trapped, he heard three distinct taps. But as Parry searched for the person or people who made the sound, everyone was forced to evacuate because a nearby building had started to collapse. An hour and a half later, when rescue workers were allowed to return to the scene, he rushed back to the area he had been searching. “We never found them,” he says, his voice breaking. “We knew there were people down there, but we weren’t able to get to them in time. That’s the hardest part for me.”