Our country will soon mark the 10th anniversary of the unbelievable horrors of September 11th, 2001. It will be a somber time. The losses were immeasurable, but the day also produced heroes. Many things have been said about the policemen, firefighters, civilians, and even ferry boat captains (see this great story) who did more than they ever imagined they would have to do. I’d like to pay tribute to the approximately 350 dogs who helped in the aftermath of this tragedy.
Search and Rescue dogs came from all over the country, as well as from Canada and one from France. They came to help find survivors but most found only remains. Many of them, used to finding live people, became depressed at what they seemed to feel was their failure. Up to a month after the attacks they searched, doing 12- and sometimes 16-hour shifts in the harshest of conditions: dust and smoke in the air, a huge pile of twisted steel and concrete as their ground, and the grim task of finding no one alive.
Therapy dogs were there, too. Rescuers and volunteers faced with this catastrophe had to come to terms with the harsh reality of so many casualties. For humans as well as canines, it was too much to bear. The few short breaks they had were sometimes spent with dogs who could sense grief and stress, and who could comfort these selfless people who were doing their best to help.
There was one canine casualty in the attacks. Sirius, a yellow Lab and a bomb-detection dog, was assigned to Police Officer David Lim and worked the World Trade Center. Officer Lim left him in the basement of Tower Two to investigate the explosion he heard. He never got the chance to retrieve his partner and friend. In January of 2002, Sirius’s body was recovered, and as they brought him out of the rubble, all of the machinery was silenced, as was done for all officers. He was saluted and carried to a waiting police truck, draped in an American flag.
There were many who selflessly assisted in the aftermath. These dogs were trained to go where asked and help. Even though they may not have understood the scope of what happened, they knew they were part of something terrible and did what they could. Their heart and presence did more than sniff out the victims – they consoled and encouraged their human counterparts. Let us honor those who gave their all in our time of great need, both two-legged and four.
There is a book coming out this month, showing 15 of the rescue dogs from 9/11 now, 10 years later.