[47, West Palm Beach]
I had a pretty good sense of the devastation in Haiti themoment I stepped off the plane. You get a vibe. It’s on the people’s faces. Igot the same feeling when working in Turkey and Columbia after theirearthquakes. As a rescuer, you mentally review previous experiences and draw onthose for the disaster at hand.
We hit the ground running. Through our interpreter, wediscovered ten locals trying to affect a rescue in this building. They hadremoved an enormous amount of soil by burrowing into the structure’s base.Candles ringed the entrance and lit the tunnel. The street had no lighting.With nothing except manpower and intent, they were doing everything possible toassist one of their own. We came to their aid and pulled out a livingindividual.
I’m one of the very lucky ones. Not in my wildest dreams didI ever envision having the ability to participate in relief on such a globalscale. When I got on as a rookie firefighter, I thought I’d only be putting thewet stuff on the red stuff and working as a paramedic.
In spite of the amount of finality that’s occurred to a lotof people there’s a lot of living to be done. You channel that energy intobringing your team to rescue all those who can be rescued. You focus on theliving.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Lieutenant Jeff Rouse has aided rescueefforts in Turkey, Columbia, Mozambique, and across the U.S.
--As Told to Stayton Bonner