NEW YORK - After driving overnight and half the morning, two University of Toledo police officers arrived in Manhattan ready to help - and wondered whether they'd be allowed.
Lt. John Betori, 35, and Officer Rod Theis, 25, crossed through the Holland Tunnel and followed the smoke.
A New York police officer “allowed us to park in a closed-off area near the media,” Lieutenant Betori said.
The UT officers gathered their work equipment and approached the disaster site.
“We had heard that there was a possibility that they may not be allowing outside agencies to participate in the recovery of the bodies, but for whatever reason, we walked in” - as did volunteers from several other police and fire departments, Lieutenant Betori said.
From 12:30 p.m. until after 7 last night, the UT officers were on site with shovels and buckets.
“You literally dig. You saw rubble,” he said. “It's like nothing you've ever seen before, and nothing like I ever want to see again.
“You don't really feel anything until you step back,” he said. “You watch it all week, and you can't believe it. It doesn't help to be here in person. You still can't believe it. It's everywhere - the devastation.”
Their work group recovered more than seven bodies, although neither UT officer was involved directly.
“They would find a body and quickly put it in a body bag and cart it from the rubble,” Lieutenant Betori said.
He said a group of Cincinnati firefighters were turned away yesterday, and the UT officers were told they would need a pass to get back in the work zone today. They decided against that after standing in a line several blocks long that did not move.
Before their journey, the UT officers collected $2,400 in donations from university employees and locals of the CWA, police patrolman's association, and American Association of University Professors, which was used to buy medical supplies. The Home Depot on Secor Road contributed $1,000 in equipment, including flashlights, work gloves, and masks.
The officers planned to brush off the dust and sleep in their police van last night.
“We'll see what we can help out with [today],” Lieutenant Betori said.