PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Among those helping with the recovery after the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, were local first responders, including Philadelphia firefighters. On Friday, a group of 80 of them returned home to the city.
Hugs, tears and emotional reunions for family members of Pennsylvania Task Force 1.
After 17 days of assisting with the search, rescue and recovery efforts at the collapsed Champlain Towers Condo in Surfside, the team is back in Philadelphia.
“Very emotional. Being away for 17 days just takes a toll on you,” said Brandon Watkins with PA Task Force 1.
“It was exhausting. It was a tragic event down there but now, as you can see, we’re glad to be back home,” said Nkosi Wood with the Philadelphia Fire Department.
About 80 members of search and rescue teams from around the region worked in 12-hour shifts, joining the Herculean task of digging through mounds of concrete and rubble.
“Going through rubble piles, looking for people, personal belongings, anything that we could identify people in the 12 floors of the collapsed building,” Watkins said.
“We knew this was gonna be a tough deployment. They all are. We knew this was going to be a particularly tough deployment. As always, they came through with flying colors, did an outstanding job down there,” Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said.
Memphis, from Montgomery County’s urban search and rescue team, is one of several dogs that helped in the search for survivors.
“Memphis is a live find canine so she is specially trained to find live humans in collapsed structures,” said Tom Brown with PA Task Force 1.
Gov. Tom Wolf welcomed the Pennsylvania task force with heartfelt gratitude.
“I cannot imagine anything tougher than what you did and from a human point of view, I just want to say thank you,” Wolf said.
Ninety-seven people are confirmed dead in the Surfside condo collapse with many still missing as the recovery enters a final stretch.
These local heroes did their part helping to bring closure to grieving loved ones.
For many of the task force members, it was the first time ever being involved in a deployment mission like this.
As you can imagine, it was very traumatic and emotionally exhausting, and that’s why there were counselors on hand to meet them Friday.