Continental Flight 3407 crashed into a home in Clarence Center, NY around 10:20pm on Thursday-February 12, 2009 - killing 50 people and changing the lives of thousands more, including mine.

I responded in the first wave of emergency services personnel sent to help restore order to the chaos that the crash created.

Frankly, I’m not ready to write about this experience at length. Not because I'm deeply disturbed by what I saw or dealt with (how can you not be?), but because I don't want what I write to be about me, despite being intimately involved.

I just didn’t want to go any longer without conveying my deep sense of pride, admiration and gratitude to the men and women and the families of the Clarence Center Volunteer Fire Company.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been prouder of a group of people than I am of Clarence Center and all their mutual aid partners right now.

As Deputy Fire Coordinator for Erie County and as part of the Unified Command team in the EOC, I am not in the least surprised by their actions, their professionalism, their respect and their caring for all those affected. I would expect nothing else.

I am simply in awe.

I’ve known all along that we have some of the greatest firefighters right here in Erie County. Chief Dave Case and his entire team have just proven it to the rest of the world.

I was there with them from the onset and we will be together until the end of this operation and beyond. I am proud and honored to stand amongst them and to call them my friends.

I thank them for their service.

Stay tuned to for more insights into the heroic efforts of these firefighters and first responders.

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Comment by Randall (Randy) Rider on February 27, 2009 at 6:23am
And who responds for the "Responders"? Yes, the "first in, and last out" crews perform in their usual fashion. However every once in awhile, that one incident crops up and takes its toll on these folks. Over the years the standard was "suck it up and act like a man". In these more challenging times, and with our numbers dwindling, it would be a shame for us to lose any of our precious few responders. Be it paid or volunteer professional service, the devastation can and has driven some of our members to "pull the plug" on their service. There is a little known service available to work with, to offer comfort, and if nothing else, an open ear and willingness to listen to these folks who need to relieve some of the stress placed upon them by a nasty experience. Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Teams are trained and ready to respond to the needs of our local heroes in need of some much needed decompression from a serious and many times deeply moving event. Consisting of mental health professionals, clergy, and peer counselors (those who work right along side us). These teams respond for defusings/debriefings as needed. Giving our responders the knowledge that whatever is said in privacy, stays that way. No notes are taken, and media is never allowed into these sessions. Responders are allowed to speak as often as they wish, or just sit in and be a part of the group. Many times just one session can take care of most of the responders. There are situations when one, or a few responders need more attention, and further counseling is made available. In this day and age, shame on us if we let one of our most precious resources slip away from us (a responder) due to a situation, when a friendly shoulder is available to assist in easing the pain. This can also be a learning experience when such information is provided to attendees such as, healthy diet suggestions, exercise ideas, and a simple explanation that what they are going through is a normal response to an abnormal situation. One phone call to your local C.I.S.D. team can make a difference in the well being of your responders maintaining not only the physical well being, but also their mental readiness for the next "big one". My thoughts and prayers are with the Clarence Center family, and my heartiest congratulations for a job well done. Stay safe all.
Comment by Padre Pete on February 26, 2009 at 10:36am
He wrote for the heroes he worked with and not about himself. I understand that. But it was typical Tiger stuff. Always up. Always proud. Always positive. Always promoting the best. Always ahead of the game. We would expected nothing less.
Comment by Joe Stoltz on February 25, 2009 at 9:13pm
We figured you would be right in the thick of things, helping to organize the chaos that must have existed at the beginning. I am looking forward to hearing more about your experiences and how the EOC operation was handled.

Take care, Brother.
Comment by Bruce Mack on February 25, 2009 at 4:52pm
Hey brother we both know how these incidents take time to decompress in ourselves, remember were here for you, you will tell your story when the times right for you, and i know its gonna be a story everyone is gonna want to hear first hand.

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