Ceremony remembers 9/11, and local rescue team’s role

BEVERLY — On a normal day, the headquarters of Massachusetts Task Force 1 sits behind a locked gate at the end of a road next to Beverly Airport.

Retired New York Task Force 1 staff Franco Barberio, who went to the World Trade Center during the attacks, addresses attendees during a ceremony in association with Historic Beverly at the Massachusetts Task Force 1 FEMA Urban Search & Rescue headquarters in Beverly in observance of the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Center terror attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. JAIME CAMPOS/Staff photo 9/10/2021

On Saturday, the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the public got a rare chance to pass beyond those gates and to hear about the team’s often overlooked role in responding to the crisis.

Hundreds of people attended a Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony hosted by Task Force 1, one of the country’s 28 Federal Emergency Management Agency Urban Search & Rescue task forces. The Beverly-based team was the first FEMA team to make it to New York City that day, thanks to a quickly assembled convoy of vehicles that included two Beverly Public Schools buses.

Beverly resident Karen Stanton said she knew vaguely that a FEMA team was based in Beverly, but she was surprised to see the extent of the compound, which includes a 9/11 museum and a memorial featuring a 21-foot-long piece of steel from one of the downed World Trade Center buildings.

“I didn’t know this existed in Beverly,” Stanton said as she stood in front of the soaring steel beam. “I’m very impressed.”

Franco Barberio, a retired New York City police officer, made the trip to Beverly for the ceremony at the invitation of Mark Foster, the Beverly team’s site director. The two got to know each other during the response to the 2001 attacks. Barberio, who was a member of a New York FEMA team, responded as a police officer that day and was on scene when the buildings collapsed. He said he formed an enduring bond and friendship with Foster and the other team members.

“Look around, especially at this task force,” Barberio said in remarks to the crowd. “Some people are simply born to serve. That’s what they embody. At every level — locally here in Beverly, regionally, at the state level and nationally. You’re forever etched in this historic time.”

A total of 72 Task Force 1 members responded to the attacks and spent days searching for survivors and victims in the rubble of the collapsed buildings. Team member Mike Gomes, who was one of those responders, remembered the seven members of Task Force 1 who were there that day and have since died.

“These seven members may have passed from our presence, but they are never far from our thoughts,” Gomes said. “We will never forget you.”

Other speakers included Foster, state Sen. Joan Lovely and Congressman Seth Moulton. Moulton listed the hometowns of the 23 local people who died in the attacks — Amesbury, Andover, Bedford, Beverly, Danvers, Billerica, Burlington, Peabody, Lynnfield, Manchester, Marblehead, Rowley, Swampscott, Tewksbury and Wakefield.

In those communities, Moulton said, “There are still empty seats at the table on holidays. Fathers and mothers who left for a work trip and never came home.”

Stanton, the Beverly resident who was visiting the FEMA site for the first time, said learning about the role of the local team added to the meaning of the ceremony.

“It’s not just tragic,” she said. “It’s uplifting. These people come from our neighborhoods.”