Olsen re­flects on be­ing first re­spon­der on 9/11

The Star Democrat - - LOCAL - By LEANN SCHENKE lschenke@thekent­coun­tynews.com PHOTOS BY LEANN SCHENKE

ROCK HALL — Af­ter the two tow­ers fell Sept. 11, 2001, Dave Olsen, a life­long mem­ber of the Rock Hall Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany and a mem­ber of the Bal­ti­more City Fire De­part­ment, went to New York City to help search for sur vivors.

Olsen re­counted his ex­pe­ri­ences in the af­ter­math of the ter­ror­ist at­tack dur­ing the Town of Rock Hall’s an­nual Re­mem­ber­ing 9/11 cer­e­mony held on Main Street Tues­day, Sept. 11.

Olsen was work­ing as a fire­man in Bal­ti­more when the at­tack hap­pened.

“We were all sit­ting around the kitchen ta­ble hav­ing break­fast at the fire­house talk­ing and try­ing to solve the world’s prob­lems,” Olsen said.

He said the fire­men were on standby un­til they were called to New York City. When he found out he was headed to Ground Zero, he said he had enough time to grab his gear, call his mom and friends An­drea and Timmy Edwards.

“When I ar­rived in New York, I was lost for words and could not be­lieve what I was see­ing and still had not got­ten to Ground Zero,” Olsen said.

He said he was sep­a­rated from his co­work­ers in Bal­ti­more. In­stead he was paired with fire­men from New York’s fire de­part­ment. Many of the fire­men he worked with, he said, would later find out they

had lost fam­ily mem­bers in the at­tack.

He said on his way to Ground Zero, the streets were lined with peo­ple pray­ing for the fire­men and giv­ing them food, wa­ter or even clean socks. One of the peo­ple he en­coun­tered in par­tic­u­lar, a young girl named Emily, he will never for­get.

“She was stand­ing there with a pic­ture in her hand. She looked at me and showed it to me and asked if I could please find her daddy and bring him home to her,” Olsen said.

He said dur­ing his time in New York City, he never found the girl’s fa­ther.

Once the team made it to Ground Zero, they spent the

first night dig­ging through the rub­ble.

“No one took breaks in a hope of find­ing some­one alive,” Olsen said.

He said the fire­men searched through­out the night, but had lit­tle luck in find­ing peo­ple.

“They had also brought in dogs to help us search for loved ones,” Olsen said. “But like ev­ery­one else, the dogs were get­ting de­pressed by not find­ing live peo­ple, so we would hide and let them find us to bring them back around.”

He said when the fire­men needed breaks or rest, they would sleep in va­cant build­ings or sim­ply on the ground where they were search­ing.

Olsen said the task even­tu­ally took a toll on him and he called An­drea and Timmy Edwards ask­ing them to come bring him back to Rock Hall.

“We talked for a cou­ple hours and they said, ‘Un­for­tu­nately, no you must stay there. God sent you there for a rea­son,’” Olsen said.

He said he did meet some “great peo­ple from all over the world and made a lot of close friends” who helped him.

“As time went on, the smell there be­came worse from the bod­ies start­ing to de­cay,” Olsen said.

One day, he said, his team re­cov­ered the body of his friend’s brother.

“As we wrapped him in a flag and car­ried him out of the pit, I thought to my­self, ‘How do you carry your brother out here and go on? How empty he must feel in­side,’” Olsen said.

Olsen said he of­ten ques­tioned how some­thing like the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on 9/11 could hap­pen and why they hap­pened.

How­ever, he said he no­ticed the United States changed af­ter the at­tacks and peo­ple were kinder to each other.

“Not long af­ter I left Ground Zero, on my way home, I no­ticed how we all had come to­gether as a na­tion,” Olsen said.

He said he thinks 9/11 hap­pened to bring the na­tion closer to­gether and “to make us see what we re­ally have.”

He said on Sept. 11, 2001, many peo­ple left their homes for work or school without telling their fam­ily mem­bers they love them.

“Then tragedy hap­pened and 343 first re­spon­ders lost their lives and close to 3,000 civil­ians,” Olsen said.

“My les­son from my time at Ground Zero — and it took me many years to fig­ure this out — is that we all need to go back to a car­ing and for­giv­ing na­tion we were when this tragedy hap­pened,” he said.

Dave Olsen, a life­long mem­ber of the Rock Hall Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany and a mem­ber of the Bal­ti­more City Fire De­part­ment, speaks about his mem­o­ries from work­ing as a fire­fighter at Ground Zero. Olsen spoke dur­ing Rock Hall’s an­nual Re­mem­ber­ing 9/11 cer­e­mony held Sept. 11 on Main Street.

Dave Sim­mons sings a song he wrote ti­tled “He’s With Me Now” dur­ing Rock Hall’s an­nual Re­mem­ber­ing 9/11 cer­e­mony. Sim­mons said he wrote the piece in re­sponse to the ter­ror­ist at­tack that oc­curred Sept. 11, 2001.

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