Salvation Army SATERN Radio Ops in NYC for WTC Disaster
By Steven W. Merrill KB1DIG & Kimberly L. Merrill KB1GTR
October 7th, 2001 Through October 18th, 2001
A personal overview of our experiences
We arrived at Salvation Army Headquarters in Lower Manhattan on Sunday,
October 7th, at 4pm. (On Steve’s Birthday) We walked into the
building and went right to work. Jeff Schneller (N2HPO) from The
Salvation Army (TSA) SATERN Radio Operations greeted us. We were
introduced to everyone and received our ID’s and Special Passes.
There was a large amount of information to review. The emphasis was
placed on the new role of providing Logistical Support, via Amateur Radio.
The debriefings lasted till 10pm. With Jeff’s help we adjusted our
radio equipment and were ready for work the next day.
The operation was broken into several parts:
§ A Control Operator Station at TSA Headquarters located on 14th
Street, between The Avenue Of The Americas (6th Ave) and 7th Ave.
§ Field Operators stationed at TSA Food Canteens located in very
close proximity to the World Trade Center.
§ Mobile Operators that performed mechanical sweeps and spot checks
of several locations throughout Lower Manhattan, and in and around the
World Trade Center.
§ Mobile Supply Transport Operators that drove trucks for supplies
that were warehoused near the JFK Airport.
Operating Frequencies were diverse:
Local 2-Meter Repeaters:
§ 147.270Mhz (+) 141.3 tone
§ 147.270Mhz (+) 127.3 tone
§ 147.000Mhz (-) 136.5 tone
§ 147.090Mhz (+) 114.8 tone
§ 462.675Mhz (+) 136.5 tone
NEXTEL and Cell Phone were also used.
Several volunteer Amateur Radio Operators participated in this operation
from all over the country. We did not get all the names and
calls. This list is mostly from memory. Several other people
helped that were
not Hams. People like Anna Balmer from REACT and Carolyn.
Some of the HAM operators we met were:
§ George Andrews, N1YAE
§ Richard Carey, KB8OTZ
§ George Donahue, KD2AU
§ David Heine, K4RDH
§ Michael Gomez, N2WGC
§ Mark Griggs, KB8YMN
§ Peter Schneider, WA1PHS
§ Janet Stonecipher, KC0IET
§ Carlos Varon, K2LCV (Jeff’s second in command)
Our shifts ranged from 14 hours a day, in the first week we were there,
to around 10 hours a day the second week. This was due mostly to
our eagerness. We all set our own pace. Time went quickly.
Not everyone we listed worked all the time. Several people were coming
and going, all the time. We all took turns.
Kim spent the majority of the time at one of the Canteens located at
Ground Zero. This was nicknamed “ The Florida Kitchen” due to the
fact that the Truck came from Florida. It was also the first Canteen
to be installed after the September 11th incident. She made sure that the
personnel were well stocked with supplies. The orders were radioed
in to Headquarters via Gary Smith, the Salvation Army Site Coordinator.
She utilized her VX-5R Yaesu Hand-Held with a 19 inch Comet Whip Antenna
and a Hand Microphone Attachment. This was ideal because it enabled
her to monitor Radio Operations and, in between transmissions, assist in
the various duties of the Site. She served food to the many workers
who came through the line, emptied trashcans, & helped out in various
other clean up/maintenance in the area. She very much enjoyed meeting
the people and getting to know them. There were people from all over
the World, including Australia, Canada, & Great Britain. It was
a very humbling experience to be there. She also tried to cheer up
the people there and made several friends in the process. It was
very spooky being there. There was so much devastation. Not
only the WTC was affected, but several other surrounding buildings &
businesses were also lost. The homeless rate has accelerated a great
deal. Nothing read in the Newspapers or seen on TV could have prepared
for the actual sight of all of this. We had the opportunity to attend
a Church Service right at Ground Zero on Sunday, October 14th. The
day after, we took our first tour, on foot, to the Site of the WTC devastation.
Steve spent most of his time driving all over Lower Manhattan.
Our little Mitsubishi Pickup truck was well suited for assistance in several
ways. The mobile radio setup we used was the FT-2500M Yaesu along
with a Larson Glass Mount Antenna. This truck is so small that it
was able to go everywhere. It did just that! Keeping up with
the little 6-wheeled ATV vehicles called Gators that were darting around
all over place. Squeezing down narrow walkways along the backside
of the WTC. Moving in and around excavating equipment. Steve
also used another VX-5R Yaesu Hand-Held with a 19 inch Comet Whip Antenna
and a Hand Microphone Attachment for times when he was out of the vehicle.
Some of the tasks Steve performed were transport of people and supplies.
Steve was in constant contact with the Control Operator Station at TSA
Headquarters. Roughly 300 miles of travel in the time we spent there
was logged. Some of the time spent was just talking to people and
cheering then up. He talked to a lot of people! Our truck was
washed with fire hoses twice each time it drove out of the WTC disaster
area. This was to remove some of the contamination from the tires and such.
We came home early. On Wednesday of our 2nd week it was decided
that thing were getting better. We had planned to stay till Saturday,
October 20th. NEXTEL and Cell Phone could now handle operation well
enough. The Salvation Army SATERN Operation decided to stand down.
It was sad to some. We feel that we had the best of both. We
had an opportunity to be there when things were frantic paced and also
when thing began to get better. At first, the RF interference around
the WTC was terrible. Communications by 2-meters were difficult but
manageable. NEXTEL and Cell Phone were subject to intermittent lockup
or failure. If NEXTEL and Cell Phone communication is the light at
the end of the tunnel, then so be it.
To sum things up, we both have reached a feeling of resolve. We
helped in a way that we wished to. We lived a lifetime in a few short
days in NYC. The State Of New Hampshire and Amateur Radio will always
be remembered. Carlos Varon (K2LCV) received a NH-ARRL/ARES coffee
mug from us that we picked up at Hosstraders on October 6th.
Jeff Schneller (N2HPO) has a prototype HALO 2-meter antenna that we designed
in our little workshop in the basement. Mark Griggs (KB8YMN) is organizing
a little get together this spring at the Dayton Hamfest. Friendships
that will last a lifetime. Stories that have no end. Some things
so personal, we will never discuss. Salvation Army SATERN is to be
commended. They were more than nice to us. We felt like a part
of a family!
Kimberly L. Merrill KB1GTR
Steven W. Merrill KB1DIG