“A few days after the towers came down, when I was finally able to leave my house, I headed to ground zero with my cameras. I got as close as I could, it was a tent on West Street somewhere near Chambers Street, set up by VMAT (Veterinary Medical Assistance Team)
This mission was the first time that VMATs had been deployed by the federal government. Their job was to maintain the health of service dogs that searched for the missing in the area.
During the two days I spent with them, I met search and rescue dogs and handlers from across the country. I remember how gloomy the men and women and their dogs were when they came out of “the stack”. We talked about the depression of the dogs because they couldn’t find any survivors.
One of the handlers I met, Erick Robertson, woke up on 9-11 and got in the car with his dog Pork-chop and drove across the country from California to help with the search. I reconnected with Erick this summer. He reported that the last of the 9/11 search and rescue dogs had recently died. The pork chop had been missing for a few years now and Erick, himself, had survived cancer. He is now involved in organizing an exhibit at the memorial honoring search and rescue dogs.In this time of great division in our country, it is good to remember the unity of those days and months that followed, particularly in New York. Today I remember this—how we came together, as a city and a country, as Americans. I woke up thinking of the words of Mr. Rogers: “My mother used to tell me, ‘Seek the helpers. You will always find people who help you.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted to realize that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”