Mission of Mercy: Tri-State Expedited Service
Since Tuesday, 9-11-01, we've all seen the countless stories of heroism, bravery and self-sacrifice demonstrated by police, firefighters, rescue workers and even the victims themselves. These are the stories that grab the headlines and deservedly so, because they provide a message of hope and inspiration during one of the most trying times in recent American history.
Equally inspiring are the "smaller" stories, the ones about other Americans, those folks who aren't necessarily on the front lines, but are making their contribution.
There are places throughout the country where average folks have felt the need to contribute to the relief effort in New York City. Through their compassion and hard work, these people are making a difference and lending a hand when it's needed most.
A concerned citizen
One of those lesser-known stories starts with a woman named Bonnie Brieschke, owner of Brieschke's Bakery in Sylvania, OH. Bonnie had received a phone call last week from her sister who lives in Manhattan, telling Bonnie of the need for supplies for the rescue personnel working at the World Trade Center site.
Bonnie says, "When my sister Jennifer called me at the bakery, she told me that she had been contacting her many friends and business associates across the country, and telling them to visit the local hardware store and pick up basic items, like batteries, flashlights, etc., and send them to New York."
Bonnie wanted to do something in her area and saw the need to spread the word: "I called Denny Schaffer of 92.5 KISS-FM (a Toledo, OH-area radio station) who is active in community affairs, and told him of the urgent needs of those people in New York. He put my number on the air and almost immediately my phone began to ring!"
One of those hearing the request for help was Susan Shaffer of Contractor Settlements for Tri-State Expedited Service, Inc., a Toledo-area emergency freight carrier.
Susan had already been a force within her company in collecting monetary contributions for the NYC tragedy, accumulating donations totaling over $2,200.00. When she heard the request for help and contributions on Denny Schaffer's radio program she says, "I contacted Bonnie and asked if she had transportation set up to deliver the donated goods and supplies."
"After Bonnie told me that transportation had not yet been arranged, I made a few phone calls and secured the services of Pat and Stephanie Hinnegan, Independent Contractors with Tri-State. Pat is originally from New York himself and was more than willing to help."
Stephanie Hinnegan tells us, "In the first days of this tragic event, we had contacted Tri-State and told them to include us if there were any relief loads going to NYC. We were glad to get the call from dispatch about this project."
The Hinnegans, from Troy, OH arrived in their 2001 Kenworth T300 on Friday afternoon of the 14th and loaded the donations that had already been delivered to the Sylvania, OH municipal building parking lot. One of the first corporate contributions was from a local company; one thousand pairs of desperately needed work gloves.
"The people of Sylvania were amazing," Stephanie continues, "and the way they got behind this effort shows Americans at their best."
"I also have to single out Denny Schaffer from the radio station; if he hadn't gotten the message out, this project wouldn't have been nearly as successful as it turned out to be."
Unfortunately, one of the local TV stations had incorrectly reported that the truck had been filled and was on it's way to NYC with the relief cargo, when in fact, it was next to empty and not scheduled to leave until the next day.
Coming to the rescue again was radio personality Denny Schaffer. He saw that additional donations were needed to fill the truck and fill it soon in order to meet the delivery window on Sunday. He set up his broadcast equipment in the parking lot and began a live remote that Saturday morning at 10:00 am, urging individuals and companies to bring their donations and fill the truck.
Susan Shaffer tells us, "After Denny had been broadcasting about 15 minutes, people started driving up with donations, and by 11:30 am, we realized that we needed another truck!"
"I made a call to Tri-State's dispatch and they found Dave Manley, a Tri-State contractor who has been with us for 6 years and, coincidentally, is a native New York state resident. Dave enthusiastically volunteered his 22' straight truck and his services."
Susan tells us that her company's management opened up their hearts in assisting this project: "I want to extend heartfelt appreciation to Ted Roberts and Mark Crawford of Tri-State for their patience with me when I was setting this up. Tri-State covered the fuel costs for the trucks involved and permitted them to run under Tri-State's authority."
A community effort
Susan reports that the crowd in the parking lot at times numbered upwards of a hundred people including Tri-State in-house employees; people breaking down pallets, organizing the supplies, loading the cargo into the trucks, volunteers all. People had heard Denny's appeal for supplies on the radio and they responded beyond all expectations.
People from the community also draped the trucks with American Flags and posters, many of them created by children.
Dave Manley says, "We had just about finished loading my truck when a Pepsi trailer pulled up with six pallets of their sports drink. Now we needed a third truck!"
"I happened to be on a cell phone call with my dad, who has also been a Tri-State contractor for the last 6 years, and after I told him what we were doing, he said, 'I'll be right there.' A short time later, we had his 16' foot straight truck loaded and ready to go."
Dave also reports that a significant contribution came from the firefighters of Sylvania, OH, in the form of $1,500.00 to cover tolls and meals on the trip, with the balance going to the relief effort.
What had begun with one, partially loaded truck just the day before, was now a small convoy packed with a variety of goods including medical supplies, blankets, socks, batteries, bottled water, dog food, people food, masks, gloves, shirts, and a plethora of other items.
By around 2:00 pm the trucks were loaded, the sides of the cargo boxes were appropriately dressed in American flags and posters expressing support, pictures were taken and goodbyes said.
With a police escort leading them to the interstate in a mini-parade, the three vehicles began their mission of mercy to the sounds of the crowd cheering.
Dave Manley tells us, "When we hit the booth at the Ohio toll road, we found we were overweight. After explaining our situation, the officers there made a phone call and in a few minutes, we were back on our way."
Dave Manley tells us that the actual run to NYC went smoothly, but was amazed by the support from his fellow truck drivers: "When other drivers would see the flags and the posters on our trucks, they would shout to us on the CB, giving words of encouragement and thanks for what we were doing. Even the four-wheelers passing us would honk and wave!"
"I suppose the only trouble we had along the way was that the 10 foot long American flag on the side of my box was coming loose. With enough duct tape around the edges, we fixed that problem and got back on the road."
Both Dave and his father, Darrell were deeply moved by the patriotic fervor which was demonstrated by the number of flags displayed along the way.
Darrell says, "This has restored my faith in the people of this country. We saw signs everywhere indicating the depth of feeling for this nation everywhere we went."
"I had the opportunity to watch the prayer service on Friday, the day before we left, and it was a very emotional time for me."
"My heart has been hurting, but this has been a time for us all to come together. Personally, helping out like this has given me a lot of satisfaction."
The drivers tell us that as they approached NYC, they saw even more flags displayed; from bridges, buildings, construction sites, etc.
New York City
Dave Manley picks up the story, "We pulled into our delivery site at a church around 1 pm Sunday. The supplies were going to different locations, so they unloaded the trucks, broke the freight down and assigned it destinations, and reloaded us. The Hinnegans delivered to one precinct, I delivered to another, and my dad took his load to within a block of ground zero, the World Trade Center location."
"Something I can't say enough about was the friendliness and real gratitude of all the New Yorkers we came in contact with! They would shake our hands and thank us repeatedly with genuine feeling. They went out of their way to make sure that we knew just how much they appreciated our efforts. The people of NYC were amazed that the people of the Toledo, OH-area cared that much!"
"So much for the image of cold New Yorkers, huh?"
Of course, this rescue mission received it's share of media coverage, with Dave doing radio interviews both in Sylvania and NYC, and the entire convoy being filmed by TV crews in the Big Apple.
Stephanie Hinnegan had this perspective on the spirit of the people she met in NYC: "There was a great sadness, but the people were not beaten. And it's a sad thing that it takes something like this to bring us together."
"Pat is originally from Long Island and he knows some volunteer firefighters that were probably involved in the rescue, and naturally, he was concerned for their well-being."
"We were happy to donate our time and equipment, it was the least we could do."
When Darrell was delivering to the site of the devastation, he had a full cab as well as a full cargo box; his passengers included: Jennifer, Bonnie Brieschke's sister, (who's plea for assistance got the whole project started), two women from a TV station in Boston and a freelance photographer.
Darrell says, "We had to clear four checkpoints before we got to the High School they were using as a command center. We were about a block away from the center of the devastation, but I could see the terrible damage to the adjacent buildings. It was still smoking with a cloud of haze covering everything."
"On the route leading in to the site, there were possibly a hundred or so ambulances lined up on the street. It's very sad that they were not being used for survivors, just the dead."
"My son and I shed quite a few tears during this past weekend."
Dave and Darrell tell us that it was very gratifying to see the people of New York City lined up along the route into ground zero, cheering and applauding the rescue workers as they entered or left the site.
Dave relates a story that typifies their experiences during their time in NYC: "As we were leaving the city,our three trucks were stopped at the Lincoln Tunnel by NYC police. They were very business-like and wanted to look inside the cargo boxes for obvious reasons."
"After seeing the posters and flags on the side however, they relaxed and started a conversation with us, asking about our trip and what we'd seen. As I was climbing back in the truck after saying goodbye, I happened to look back at them, and they were standing there at attention and saluting us!"
From the compassionate woman in Sylvania, OH, Bonnie Brieschke, who turned that initial phone call from her sister into this relief mission involving so many, "It was very heartwarming to know how a community could come together in a time of need. As I heard someone say in relation to the tragedy, 'we may bend, but we'll never break."
"I want to say thank you to everyone for their support, and God Bless America."