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    20 Year Anniversary of 9/11: A National Guardsman Recalls His Mission at Ground Zero

    Chief Master Sgt. Tim Russer stands watch in front of Ground Zero

    Photo By Senior Airman Natalie Filzen | Chief Master Sgt. Tim Russer stands watch in front of Ground Zero in the days...... read more read more

    JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Chief Master Sgt. Tim Russer, special assistant to the D.C. Air National Guard Director of Staff, was a senior airman in the New York National Guard when the World Trade Center was attacked in 2001.

    That day, he was working his full time job as an audio visual specialist for the Freeport Public Schools district in Freeport, New York. Due to the nature of his job, his office was one of the only rooms in the building that had a television, so he was able to witness the events that occurred 45 minutes from where he was, unfold on the news.

    Understanding the gravity of what happened, he called his base multiple times to respond to the disaster as a National Guardsman, but the phone rang off the hook. It wasn’t until days later, that New York Gov. George Pataki called on the National Guard units from all over the state to volunteer for Operation Resolve, where Russer would put on his military uniform to guard Ground Zero.

    “We were augmenting the New York City Police Department to help provide a presence around the event so that it was a safe place for the firemen and their emergency rescue workers to begin searching for survivors,” said Russer.

    One of the clearest memories of the grounds for Russer was a church where Ground Zero volunteers would gather for food, rest or supplies. He recalled sleeping on the pews when he was exhausted, and even visited the location years later, in 2013. The church is now a memorial for 9/11.
    He remembers the organized chaos of Operation Resolve, akin to building a plane while flying it. He also remembers the community, how all of New York city seemed to band together to provide support for responders and affected families.

    “We'd be standing in a line, and if one New Yorker decided they were going to say thank you for being there, then we would shake hands for five, eight minutes.” said Russer.

    “There were folks that lived in the area that my first night out there - I just remembered seeing them go up to their apartment in New York City, make a tray of coffee, a coffee pot with all the fixings, and would just walk around to whoever wanted a cup of coffee and then they'd go back up to their apartment and brew another couple of pots - everybody was just giving, giving, giving, like a real community after,” he said.

    During that time, he witnessed how people from cities around the country wanted to participate, sending over supplies. School children would write letters or color images, thanking first responders for their service.

    Growing up and living on Long Island he would often take the Long Island Railroad to commute home from the school district. His route passed by a parking lot for New York City commuters. He would work late nights, and the night of 9/11 he left his office at 10 p.m. Typically, by that hour the parking lot would always be empty because the commuters had gone home. That night, the lot was full.

    “That was just kind of an eerie reminder that even 40 miles away, this was still affecting real people. All those cars still in the parking lot were the folks that didn't make it home,” said Russer.

    His memories of his commute to Ground Zero when he transitioned from his full time job at the Freeport Public Schools district to being activated as a Guardsman, also exuded remnants of the tragedy.

    “We'd have to go under a tunnel to get to the site, and I remember going through the tunnel and still smelling the smoke as if it was my fireman days, like it was a house fire. It was just interesting that, even several weeks after the event, there was still evidence, even in a tunnel, miles away,” said Russer.

    Despite the catastrophe that occured twenty years ago, it was a defining moment not only for Russer, but also the country and the National Guard.
    “It helped me realize why I'm a Guardsman, what it is to be a Guardsman. We have our federal mission, but we're also this extra trained body of professionals that have a duty not only to the nation, but to your state,” said Russer. “That brought some value to the career decision, there is actually some meaning behind why we put the uniform on every day.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 09.11.2021
    Date Posted: 10.02.2021 13:53
    Story ID: 406581
    Location: DC, US

    Web Views: 226
    Downloads: 0

    PUBLIC DOMAIN