, Salem, MA

Special Report

September 9, 2011

Local FEMA team in the heart of a disaster


In the aftermath

In a group photo taken at a rest stop on the trip home to Beverly, there's nary a smile, only exhaustion. The team arrived back in Beverly on Sept. 18 to cheers, pats on the back and an address by the governor. Giunta went home and slept for 24 hours. Arnum started digesting what just happened.

"Some of those experiences down there stick in my mind, and I'll never get rid of them. Some are good, some are bad," she said. "Working with this group of very unique people was an honor. You couldn't ask for a better group."

Giunta has plenty of bad images floating in his head, too, but it's the positives that he tends to focus on.

"It created these bonds, something that we will share for the rest of our lives," he said. "It's the kind of friendship that you don't get from cracking a beer with someone at a bar. It's more personal."

The rescue effort evokes strange and sometimes incongruous feelings for most people on the team. There's pride, for sure. There's also sadness, camaraderie, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of profound disappointment that no one was found alive. All of those things will stay with them forever.

"I always tell people," Foster said, "when you're in this job, you live it every day to some extent."

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