September 9, 2011

Racing to the scene, with friends in mind

For firefighter Michael Clarke of Bath, scouring the rubble of the twin towers was deeply personal.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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Bath firefighter Michael Clarke was among the wide-ranging teams who responded to the scene of the Sept. 11 attacks at the World Trade Center in New York. He worked in the wreckage of the twin towers for more than a week, initially performing search and rescue and then, as hope for survivors was lost, recovery operations.

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So they picked up whatever they could find -- a purse, a credit card, a driver's license. They worked straight through until someone higher up the chain of command forced them to take a break for water, or in Clarke's case, oxygen therapy to bring down his carbon monoxide levels after he had been rooting around in a hole filled with smoke.

On Wednesday night, Clarke got a note from his friend Billy Rooney. He was alive.

Rooney told Clarke that their friend, Paul Sarle, was missing. Sarle, who left behind a son, a daughter and a pregnant wife, was one of 22 people Clarke knew who died in the Sept. 11 attacks. In the weeks to come, he would attend 16 funerals and memorial services.

Asked about the emotional impact of so much loss, Clarke says that those who died, some of whom were the instructors who trained him, would want the 9/11 firefighters to continue doing their jobs: "They would expect us to pull up our bootstraps and carry on."

Clarke arranged to have a piece of the World Trade Center sent to Maine. It has been made into a memorial that will be placed at the Maine Fire Service Institute in Brunswick, where young firefighters in training will see it every day.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:


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