Reports from New York’s ‘red zone’

RESCUE AND RELIEF workers near ground zero grab a bite to eat at a Salvation Army canteen.

GROUND ZERO, October 22 ­ Team leader Major Neil Timpson from San Francisco reported this morning that The Salvation Army tent staffed by the California team is just 30 feet from the pit where relief workers are operating. He counted 28 cranes the size of tanks carefully recovering metal, one piece at a time. Salvation Army shields were on the cranes.

Three bodies were recovered on the day of the team’s arrival, but none have been found since. Salvation Army officers wear volunteer clergy badges and are authorized access to all areas in and out of the red zones. When bodies are found, Army officers will participate in the memorial services. A fire battalion chief told Timpson he had already attended memorial services for 194 people and added “I’m only about half through.”

The Army has three locations at ground zero. The “California site” (because it is currently staffed by the crew which left San Francisco October 15) consists of two tents ­ one for serving coffee, juice and soup; the second for cots and quiet time. It’s officially called a hydration site. Because of the dirt from the construction site, open containers of food can’t be served this close to the Pit. For full meals, relief workers are invited to the Army’s “Florida site” (“the size of a football field, with three big tents and a warehouse for supplies”). Last night’s meal included lasagna, chicken and vegetables.

At the California site, Timpson, Capt. Ezekiel Guevara from Visalia and Captain Tom Olsen from South San Francisco serve on the day shift from 10 AM to 10 PM with many local volunteers who have been on site from the very first day. Capt. Chris Yeager, from San Francisco, and Envoy Henry Raven, from Clovis, take the night shift.

Timpson and Olsen met Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday as he toured the area. He stopped to thank them for the work the Army has been doing there since Sept. 11.

Dr. Temple Elliott–a retired psychologist, licensed grief counselor, Kosovo relief worker and Monterey advisory board member–was interviewed by Ed Bradley of “60 Minutes” while serving at ground zero. Elliott was in charge of a Sal-vation Army counseling area which also provided underwear, socks, T-shirts, sweat shirts, shoes, and hard hats. He took food and drink directly into the pit for steel workers, truck drivers and crane operators who seldom took time to rest and heard them frequently say, “If it weren’t for the Salvation Army we couldn’t continue.”

The work will continue as long as needed and includes small touches of personal assistance as well as the big stuff.

Captain Tom Olsen, for instance, found a policeman’s cell phone that had a listing on it for “Mom.” Olsen called “Mom” and arranged to return it to her son.

–Judy Vaughn

More teams in NYC

Two more teams from the Western Territory have been sent to New York City to assist with the Army’s response effort in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks.

The teams are serving at the disaster site for two weeks each, in canteen and operations.

Team Three members are: Envoy Henry Ellis Raven, Majors Donna Jackson and Neil C. Timpson, and Captains Thomas L. Olsen, Christopher D. Yeager, and Ezekial Guevara.

Members of Team Four are: Major Rebecca Sparks, Captain Cassandra Adams, Wayne Mason, and Advisory Board members Donald Petroff and Shannon Thorson.

They join the more than 4,000 Salvation Army workers and volunteers who have been working to provide grief counseling, food, clothing and supplies to the relief and recovery workers since the September 11 attacks.

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