Animals at Ground Zero
Heroes in all shapes, sizes, and breeds
Meet One of the Dog Teams
Pier 40: Heart of the Operation
The Four-Legged Heroes
Search & Rescue, Canine Style
Where Are They Now?
Pets in Peril
Diary of a K-9 Team
Preparing for Animal Care in a Disaster
If You’re an Animal Organization
A Snapshot of the E-mails
A Memorial Roster
Kathleen Ross, had been in her lower Manhattan apartment, just blocks from the World Trade Center, when the terrorists struck.
She knew she had to get out, but her 4-year-old cat, Tweety-Pye, was too terrified to cooperate. As the second tower collapsed, the beautiful gray kitty ran and hid.
“By that time,” Ross says, “we were ordered to evacuate the building. We had to run like hell.”
Like thousands of others in the area, Ross had no choice but to leave her animal companion.
Her next few days were a nightmare. Communications were spotty. There were precious few reports about animals on the TV news. And local residents couldn’t get permission to go back home. Tweety-Pye was on her own.
Then a friend helped her down to get down to Pier 40, where a humane officer and volunteers accompanied her to her apartment. Ross waited below as the crew went to fetch Tweety-Pye. Even though it took just a few minutes, she says, “It seemed like they were gone forever. I kept looking at the door, and I knew she was OK when I saw the officer carrying her out. I felt like I’d just gotten half of my heart back.”
Tweety-Pye was lucky. But a growing number of animals no longer had a family. At the city animal control command post, alongside the others on Pier 40, the goal was to place as many of these orphaned pets in foster homes or permanent homes as quickly as possible.
Word began to spread, across the Internet and so across the country, from rescue group to rescue group, from person to person. Again, offers of help poured in as people opened their hearts and their homes.
“We needed people to adopt the animals we already have at the shelters so we could help the ones we need to bring in now,” said Forte. “But lots of people said, ‘No, we only want one whose owners were killed in this incident.”
Forte paused wistfully. “It was almost like they wanted a trophy.”
For everyone helping out at Ground Zero, it was a baptism of fire. Much was learned for future occasions.
“There needs to be one lead agency,” said at the time. “That group needs to know what to do when there’s an emergency. The best thing here was that the main organizations took on specific functions: the Suffolk SPCA with the search and rescue dogs; city animal control with the animals who were lost and found; and the ASPCA with the veterinary work. That was good.”
And for Forte himself?
“When I was down there at Ground Zero, I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Who am I? I’m just this little shelter director, and I’m trying to work all this out with the FBI and the Army, and there are all these trucks and all this food, and this huge outpouring of support from everywhere.
“It was kind of humbling.”