The Jersey City Effort

Michael Terpak, Battalion Chief
Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department

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The Jersey City Fire and Police Departments aggressively tried to reach victims of the World Trade Center (WTC) through the PATH train tunnels that extend under the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York. We tried on September 11 and for a number of days after. Flooded tunnels, elevated CO levels, debris, failed utilities, and building collapses on the New York side continually hampered our efforts.

While tunnel operations were underway, the Jersey City Fire Department and Jersey City EMS were also actively involved in triaging countless numbers of civilians, police officers, and firefighters being brought over to New Jersey in numerous boats–any boat that could be flagged down in the harbor. A number of FDNY firefighters were treated in Jersey City hospitals; their families ate and rested at our fire stations.

As extensive efforts continued on the New Jersey side, our department was also formally requested to send a complement of men and some equipment to the WTC. This involved at any given time a minimum of two engine companies, a ladder company, a heavy rescue company, a deputy chief, and a battalion chief. The unit operated under FDNY’s direction for a number of days. We initiated a citywide recall of all off-duty members and called in mutual-aid companies to staff our stations and respond to incidents within Jersey City.

Our efforts were not expended without a loss. Early in the incident, before the collapse of the towers, we were requested to send our Mask Service Unit (air supply vehicle) and a battalion chief to assist with air-supply operations. Joseph Lovero, a member of our fire dispatch center, was on the scene assisting with the Jersey City effort when the towers fell and killed him.

To Joe and our many friends within the FDNY, our thoughts and prayers will always be with you and your families.

Being so close to New York geographically, members of the Jersey City Fire Department have always considered the FDNY as a close family member. Having the opportunity to train and work with them at a number of incidents over the years, we always knew they would be there when we needed them. On September 11, and for a number of days that followed, we were able to return a favor. We only wish we were able to do more.

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