Search and rescue crew recall ground zero

Germantown High School/Germantown, Tenn.
Posted in Remembering

COLUMBIA — The memories of the two weeks Dave Weber spent searching through the devastation of ground zero have changed him.

The details have begun to blur slowly over these ten years, but his experience searching for and rescuing survivors at the former site of the World Trade Center have been etched in his memory, a permanent reminder of a day that changed the course of American history.

“You’re there for two weeks, but it’s just this weird snapshot, and when a lot of years go by, it’s harder and harder to remember details,” he said. “And if you go through the pictures, you can sort of remember all that.”

Weber said working at ground zero freed him to let go of everyday worries.

“What really matters is your family and close friends’ well

beings,” Weber said. “All of the other things, like cars, houses, popularity, etc., are not what makes you happy.”

Weber, 42, a Columbia engineer, went to New York with Missouri Task Force 1, which he joined in 1997 after helping respond to a building collapse in Boonville.

A friend needed a borescope, an optical device for seeing inaccessible areas, and told Weber to ask the local task force unit if they had this piece of equipment.

“I met Doug Westhoff with the task force along with others and was hooked,” Weber said.

It was three years before Weber would be sent to his first disaster site — ground zero.

Weber said he doesn’t view himself as a hero.

“I was simply doing my job as I was trained to do along with many other extremely qualified people,” he said.

He said he thinks his experience was more of a life lesson. Weber’s life has been enriched by his experience in the task force, and even in local disasters, he still keeps Sept. 11 in the back of his mind.

“I guess what doesn’t take you out makes you stronger,” he said.

Captain Matt Schofieldof the Jefferson City Fire Department, who was also at ground zero with the task force, remembers watching the news before leaving for New York. He thought he had an idea of what was happening but was overwhelmed when he got to the site.

“Nothing compared to turning the corner at West and Liberty Street (in lower Manhattan). It struck me as an ocean of steel pushed through the streets,” Schofield said.

Schofield was most often sent in during the day shift for search and rescue, but the memories he recalls most clearly took place at night. He remembers walking down the streets of New York seeing a smashed fire department ladder truck, and no one said anything.

When Schofield returned to Missouri, he was not sure how to handle being considered a hero.

“I can’t describe how humbling it is to represent the people of Missouri in an event like this,” Schofield said. “We felt the prayers and carried that heartfelt sentiment onto the rubble pile.”

Schofield told locals about

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With the 10th anniversary

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of the attacks approaching, Schofield looks back and remembers the people who lost their lives during the attack.

“It’s a sober benchmark for our country, honoring the memories of those we lost on 9/11 and in the service of our country,” he said.

Not only is the anniversary of Sept. 11 an important day for America, but to Matt Schofield, it is also the day his cousin was born. He received a voicemail with the news when he arrived at the McGuire Air Force Base.

“I saved the message for years,” Schofield said.