A Parkland resident for 28 years, married father of three, Jeff Liversedge, is a First Responder and Captain with Key Biscayne Fire Rescue. 20 years ago after the tragic downing of the World Trade Center, he and other associates were tasked with putting together an Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team and equipment to go and assist with recovery at the in New York City. Their intention was to fly out of Homestead airport, but because of travel restrictions, they had to drive up two days after the tragedy. The team (FEMA Florida Task Force Two) consisted of about 80 people and another 20 in support positions.
With a debris field of approximately 11 acres, Jeff tells us, “Upon arriving and getting a view of the entire site, it was like something in a sci-fi movie, surreal…. it’s the only term. You see it on TV, but it’s not the same unless you see it with your own eyes. It’s so overwhelming, but in your mind, you are thinking, ‘There’s no way this can be real.’” Jeff’s job for 10 days was as a search and rescue specialist, and his group were assigned a variety of tasks over the time they served there. 20 years after departing NYC, Jeff tells us, “After a few years, you don’t understand it… And you still try to process things. We were witnesses to one of the greatest crimes against America in decades.”
After the recent tragedy in Surfside, Jeff and his team were deployed again. Just 45 minutes from his home, he says, “What made it similar to 911 was this large, daunting task that your team has been assigned to. It’s an honor to be able to respond to a disaster in our own backyard and help our community and those families find closure.”
Jeff elucidates,“We are always focused on finding live victims… That is our number 1 mission.“ Should you have the privilege of meeting Jeff in person, you will be struck by his piercing gaze and his thoughtful, determined delivery as he puts his thoughts into words. He continues, “When we went to Surfside for 12 days, we worked at the purpose driven, calculated pace that we always use in hopes of finding live victims. That did not stop until we left.” Jeff was then given 48 hours leave to check in at home, get a haircut, and then returned for another week.
When asked why he does this after so many years, Jeff’s measured and thoughtful response is, “Our Urban Search and Rescue Team is made up of the most amazing, professional operators in the fire rescue service. I’m honored to be able to work on the team with this caliber of people.“ There are people on the team of every rank in the fire fighting industry, but perform their duties on the USAR team in the capacity they are assigned. Just to apply and be placed on a team, you must accomplish a tremendous amount of extra training including: Trench, confined space, rope rescue, extrication, hazardous material… to name a few.
Reflecting on his time with the USAR team, Jeff says, “When you come back from a deployment, you realize that all the little things we think are problems are not problems. Little things like fixing broken plumbing, or cutting the lawn… Everything just Seems like a lot of minutia and so unimportant. You’re just happy to be back home with your family.“
Regarding the 20th anniversary of 911, Jeff predicts, “I will spend it with my family and friends; and raise a glass to our brothers and sisters that didn’t make it back.”