The clocks stand still in Port-au-Prince, 4:53 PM; the time on January 12, 2010 when things forever changed in Haiti - and soon thereafter for millions the world over, most of whom watched in quiet disbelief as images of the nation's catastrophic earthquake became evident.
While most of us in Southern California stood with slackened jaws and heavy hearts, a team of 72 highly trained and deeply dedicated friends and neighbors began to quickly assemble in Pacoima, California for a mission they had long trained for yet hoped would never come.
For more than two decades, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has helped organize and support a system of regional Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Task Forces available for mobilization by State and Federal government on an as-needed basis.
Comprised of specially trained and equipped local firefighters and other certified responders, this nationwide network of 28 FEMA USAR Task Forces includes eight in the Golden State, two of which are maintain here in Los Angeles County.
Though FEMA USAR Task Forces are equally trained, equipped and certified, only two of our nation's teams are pre-designated for service beyond our borders through the United States Agency for International Development.
One of those teams ready for international deployment on January 12 was FEMA California Task Force 2 (CA-TF2), comprised of brave and dedicated men and women from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
For those unaware, the Los Angeles Fire Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) are similar sounding but separate organizations.
With military speed and precision, the 72 member Los Angeles County Fire Department contingent of fire fighters and paramedics, rescue specialists, emergency room physicians, structural engineers, heavy equipment operators, canine search dogs and handlers, hazardous materials technicians, communications and logistics personnel were assembled and on their way as emissaries of the American people.
Laboring selflessly around the clock for 14 days against an everpresent backdrop of despair, destruction - and aftershocks, the members of CA-TF2 performed to the highest standards and in the finest tradition of the fire service, giving hope and often life to the people of Haiti.
Among CA-TF2's many successes was this videotaped rescue of a badly trapped woman...
We offer a respectful tip o' the LAFD helmet to the members of CA-TF2, their families and all who offered aid, including two LAFD personnel summoned to serve Incident Support Team functions in Haiti.
As Los Angeles Firefighters, but more so as Americans, we are humbled by your service, compassion and valor. Most of all, we loudly echo the words of Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman:
Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department