Elko battalion chief to speak at Capitol
September 11, 2002
Battalion Chief Tom Turk thought it unlikely that his services would be called upon in New York City after last year’s terrorist attacks.
“That’s a pretty far fetch being that there’s so many fire departments between New York and Elko, Nev.,” he said.
But when the call came nearly a week after Sept. 11, he accepted.
“To sit and watch the recovery efforts that first week was agonizing,” he said. “I wanted to be able to do something. In the profession of fire fighting, it is a brotherhood across the country and across the world.”
Turk, Elko County Fire District’s battalion chief, will speak at today’s memorial event planned for 1 p.m. at the Capitol. It will feature firefighters raising the flag, a 21-gun salute, high school band performances and a military fly-over.
Turk left for New York on Sept. 18. The night before, each of his three elementary-school-aged children made a care package for him to deliver to firefighters working at Ground Zero.
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Once there, Turk was put to work providing needed supplies to the counseling centers that sprung up throughout New York City’s five boroughs.
He said the centers often stayed open 24 hours. Mourners chose to stay in the shelter for days rather than go home and face their loss.
He often worked 12 to 16 hours every day.
“There were some pretty tense days,” he said. “It was trying. But it was rewarding. It was better than not being able to do anything.”
Turk was charged with securing enough fire department flags to drape over the caskets of fallen officers and to present to their families. He also ordered special purple-and-black banners to hang on doors of fire stations as a symbol of mourning.
After 22 days, Turk returned home to his family and the support of his community.
He said the most emotional moment came when his family returned home weeks later to a message on an answering machine.
It was a New York City firefighter thanking them for one of the care packages his children had made for him to deliver.
If you go:
What: Governor’s address to memorialize Sept. 11
When: 1 p.m.