by Jonathan Weaver
A group of Ford Cliff volunteer firefighters will be some of the countless others on their way to Moore, Oklahoma today to assist with recovery efforts.
Monday, an EF5 tornado ripped apart parts of the Oklahoma City suburban area and killed approximately two dozen, including nine children since elementary schools were directly hit.
No matter how, First Lieutenant ‘Tag’ Hecker knew he had to be there to help.
‘”I just wanted to do something to help – I was sitting there Tuesday night watching the news and I called (Goodman) and said, “I want to go to Moore, Oklahoma,’” Tag said. “Going down there is important to me and it’s important to these guys.
“We just want to go down and help,” Tag added. “We’re a good group of guys. As soon as I talked to (Lieutenant Josh ‘Tater’ Adams), everybody jumped on-board. Honestly, if we would’ve had two more pieces of equipment, we’d have enough guys to roll two pieces of equipment out to Oklahoma – there are a lot of guys that want to go.”
In addition to Hecker and Adams, firefighters Bob Turek, Keith Beckett and Joey Peluso also volunteered and will drive nearly-19 hours (1,250 miles) in the ‘Attack 81’ apparatus.
Adams got the call from Hecker Tuesday night and started by calling the Moore Emergency Management Agency. He has never provided disaster relief of this magnitude, but is ready to go.
“It’s always a surprise when Tag gives you a call – I thought ‘What the hey – let’s do it,” Adams said. “Sounded like a good idea.”
Adams described what firefighters are taking to help – much provided through community donations. Through those donations, firefighters were able to cover the nearly-$1,000 in fuel cost.
“Basically hand tools, water and manpower. Through my contacts out there, I’ve gathered that’s really what they need: just help cleaning up,” Adams said.
“Moore’s getting a lot of attention right now – they have tons of resources. It’s the outlying communities that are really struggling right now -that’s where we’re heading, the Shawnee, Bethel Acres – little towns like we live in,” Adams added.
As well as local organizations, such as the Ford City VFW, Eagles or Millers Hoagies, Hecker and Adams said they also have support of their employers.
Hecker – who provided search-and-rescue for three days with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard in Ford City during the Big Beaver tornado in 1988 – was confident more donations would have come if there was more time.
“We’re gonna go down there and we’re gonna get busy,” Hecker said.
Hecker’s daughter, Megan, came home from Florida Wednesday night in time to give her father a hug and her support and prayers during the weekend.
“What he’s doing is really important – he’s changing lives. That’s really important for me to be a part of and make sure I was here to say goodbye,” Megan said.
“My dad’s all about helping others and does whatever he can.”
Megan just completed her freshman year at Carlow University and is a junior firefighter with Ford Cliff.
Lexi Turek – a 10th grader at Ford City High – told her dad to be careful, but is also thankful of his devotion.
Fire Chief Bill Goodman praised Hecker and the volunteers.
“He showed great initiative on putting this thing together, lined up a crew to go, beat the bushes to get the funding, doing what he needed to do to get things lined up on our side as far as our administrative side at the firehouse and getting necessary approvals to take the truck out of town – he did a lot of work getting this done,” Chief Goodman said.
The fire apparatus pulled out of the station about 5:20PM Thursday with sirens blaring. The firefighters are to leave Oklahoma for home on Memorial Day.