Phila. firefighter eager to lend a hand in Haiti
PHILADELPHIA - January 15, 2010 (WPVI) -- A member of the Philadelphia fire department says he could not wait to get the call to head down to Haiti and help those in need.
He got that call on Thursday.
Lieutenant John O'Neill packed as light as he could for his flight from Philadelphia to Miami. From there, he will catch a military transport to Haiti.
As soon as the earthquake hit, the Philadelphia firefighter said to himself: 'I need to get down there.'
"We know that is our job. When we get held up, it gets frustrating because we want to go and do our work, and get our mission accomplished," O'Neill said.
Lt. O'Neill has been with the department for 20 years, 18 of which have been with the elite Special Operations squad.
He has been part of search and recovery efforts at Ground Zero after 9/11 and in post-Katrina Louisiana, so his expertise is in great demand in Haiti.
"When I went to 9/11, my daughter said to me, she goes, 'Why do you have to go dad?' I said 'Well you've got to help people. That's what we're here to do. When other people need help, you go and help them."
Give that Lt. O'Neill had been in NYC right after 9/11, and in New Orleans right after Katrina, it is stark to hear him say the conditions in Haiti will be even worse.
The lieutenant says the flimsy infrastructure commonly found in Port-au-Prince makes the chances of finding many survivors very slim.
However, he says he is built to withstand the upcoming emotional toll.
"I've always wanted to be a fireman, since I was a kid. I'm doing the job I love, so I'm happy to do what I do," O'Neill said. "I'm glad I can make an impact on other people's lives."
Lt. O'Neill has been told he will be in Haiti for the next 14 days, but he expects his mission to be extended long after that.
haitian earthquake, haiti, local/state, matt o'donnell
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