YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The country watched for weeks as images of the search and rescue effort in the southern Florida condo collapse kept coming.
“They were very methodical in what they were doing. They were working by hand, sometimes they were working in conjunction with heavy machinery that was moving around, so they had to have that awareness,’ said Tracey Wright, a retired Youngstown firefighter and member of the Ohio Peer Support Team.
Wright was one of four members of an Ohio Peer Support Team sent to Surfside, Florida to provide help to first responders and was in the first group to actually be on-site.
“We were there watching the team members work on the pile. We were there when they would come off,” Wright said.
The Peer Team’s job is to provide emotional support and encouragement to those working the scene, anything from a handshake and a thank you to just listening.
“Sometimes it was just a way for them to take a break from what was going on. They would talk with us about their families. Some of them did, in fact, talk about their prior experience,” Wright said.
Some of that involved helping members of Ohio’s Task Force One, which recently returned from its own deployment to Surfside. Most of the team members had been staying aboard a cruise ship docked about forty minutes from the scene. Wright says the Peer Team’s message was simple.
“You’re experiencing an extraordinary situation, an abnormal situation, so it’s completely normal to, as time goes forward, just maybe have a little more impact on you,” Wright said.
And even though Wright and her team are back home again, those on the front lines will have help available whenever it is needed.
“In the days, weeks, months to follow if there is anything that they need, we’re here for them,” Wright said.