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Remembering Sept. 11: Search and Rescue Dogs at Ground Zero

LVHN colleague recalls collecting supplies, making leather paw pads to help canines complete their mission

remembering 9/11

We all remember where we were that sunny September morning 20 years ago.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the bravery of the passengers on United Flight 93 above western Pennsylvania, are etched in our collective memory. Nearly a generation has passed, yet the loss of nearly 3,000 souls that day is not forgotten. We can never forget.

Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) joins with all of you in remembering them again, remembering them still. We remember ordinary people who became heroes. We remember all the helpers, the first responders and those who simply pitched in wherever they could.

In our common humanity, we came together, extending a hand to strangers and friends alike.

Helper Leslie Parker of LVHN

leslie parker
Leslie Parker

One of those helpers was Leslie Parker of Macungie, now a patient services representative with LVHN. On Sept. 11, 2001, she was living in Scranton and like so many of us, watched the day’s events on TV. In the weeks that followed, she contacted aid agencies only to learn they had enough donations.

“I had to do something, anything,” said Parker, who volunteered at her local SPCA.

Her love of dogs and a sister who worked with search and rescue dogs with the Federal Emergency Management Agency led to an idea. According to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, more than 300 dogs took part in search, rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. The last living person rescued from Ground Zero, 27 hours after the attacks, was found by a search and rescue dog. Parker wanted to help the canine heroes.

She and her friends set up a tent on her street to collect pet care cream to treat burns and dry and cracked paw pads. She also made paw coverings from any kind of leathery material she could find.

“I had to do something, anything.” – Leslie Parker

Then she and her sister, Diana Garcia, drove to New York City and dropped off the donated canine items at a fire station near Ground Zero. They purchased T-shirts being sold to raise money for the families of the fallen firefighters.

“The streets were eerily silent as we watched a convoy of dump trucks drive past carrying smoldering debris,” she recalled. “I will never forget this day and what I witnessed, feeling helpless to help the suffering. Our precious animals were heroes and a comfort to the men and women during that time.”

Parker, who volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, said there’s always something you can do to help. “In my case, it was the dogs,” she said.

All sorts of helpers and heroes

There were examples of helpers everywhere on 9/11.

When 38 airliners were forced to land in tiny Gander, Newfoundland amid the grounding of aircraft that day, nearly 6,700 passengers from 90 countries were taken in by the townspeople there.

As the twin towers burned, selfless acts of kindness and courage abounded as thousands scrambled to evacuate. The same scene played out at the Pentagon. The bravery of the passengers on Flight 93 still brings a lump to your throat.

On that dark day, 7,302 days ago, we suffered unimaginable loss. So much has happened since then.

Amid the solemnity and sadness that marks this day, let’s also remember how we came together, how we hugged friends and family just a little bit tighter, how we asked how we could help and what we did. Let’s rekindle that spirit on this 20th anniversary of 9/11. 

Remembrances of 9/11

Maria Ruotolo, a radiology registration representative at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Pocono, worked at a parking company in Manhattan 20 years ago. She had the day off on Sept. 11, 2001, but on that day lost a classmate, New York City firefighter Dennis M. Mulligan.

“I know Dennis died a hero along with all of the others and I’ll never forget,” she said.

When she finally returned to work, she noticed cars in her garage that were owned by some of those who perished in the attack. “My heart just sank. I’ll never forget that feeling of hopelessness and fear.”

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