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(NECN: Lauren Collins, Beverly, Mass.) - The Massachusetts Task Force training course was already well underway when these 37 first responders were reminded why they're here.
“For this to happen while we're actually involved in this drill is extraordinary,” says Task Force Leader Gerry Giunta. “Our hearts and prayers go out to all the people in Oklahoma.”
The instructors and many of the students are also on the Urban Search and Rescue Team, one of 28 across the country. The highly trained disaster responders were called up after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and, most recently, Super storm Sandy.
Three other teams from other parts of the country are on the ground in and around Moore. They're ready to go to Oklahoma too if they're needed.
“We have six hours from when we're activated with eighty people and all our gear,” says Giunta who is also the Deputy Chief of the Salem, MA fire department.
Most of the buildings that collapsed under the Oklahoma tornado's fury were lighter construction than the training pile of concrete debris but this is the kind of equipment that rescuers are using right now at places like the Plaza Towers Elementary School. Rescue team manager Tom Kenney says the most important tool there right now is hope.
“There's always the thought that depending on how it occurred that there may be somebody left alive in the rubble”