CHANTILLY, Va. — After more than two weeks away from their families in the service of those hit hardest by Hurricane Ian, members of Virginia's Task Force 1 came home Monday to a warm welcome from their families.
"I'm very excited to go home and spend some quality time with family," said Captain Rob Clement after his wife, son and daughter greeted him at the Task Force headquarters here Monday afternoon.
He and other specially trained first responders from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue deployed ahead of Ian's landfall and as soon as the storm moved through the Fort Myers, Fla. area they moved in to begin searching for survivors.
"We assisted some to the hospital, some to shelters. We assisted with pets. Some people weren't able to get out of their garages. They weren't able to get food or any kind of health care or get to their family's house," said Captain Jennifer Hiner. "So, we assisted getting their cars out, cut down trees. Any way that we could help is what we did," she said.
One thing both first responders said they tried not to do during their deployment was to think too much about their families back home in Virginia.
"When you're there, you have to be completely engaged," Hiner said. "Thinking about those people at night when you come home thinking how you can better help them the next day, learning more about them, what their needs are, providing that compassion to them if nothing else," she said.
Now, Hiner and the others on the team said, they can let that focus return to their families at home.
"It's definitely a lot of time away," said Hiner's husband Nate Hiner. "But, it teaches our kids service to others right out of the gate. And so what better way to start your kids off and learn how to take care of others in a time of need," he said.
But, in a job like theirs, the sacrifices from Task Force members take a few days off. In just 48 hours Hiner said she will return to duty at her Mount Vernon fire station.
"Two days. But, I'm excited to get back to work. I also miss that family too, so I'm excited to reconnect with my guys at work," she said.
Tidewater Disaster Response (TDR) is a civilian search-and-rescue group based in Fairfax, Virginia. These local volunteers and first responders say they won’t forget the devastation they witnessed in southwest Florida. They’re inspired by the courage of those they encountered and daunted by a recovery they say will take years.
WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.