‘It’s a grim task’: Southwest Ohio doctor recounts 9/11 search and rescue mission with Ohio Task Force 1

Dr. Randy Marriott, pictured in New York City on 9/11, where he was deployed along with Ohio Task Force 1. CONTRIBUTED
Dr. Randy Marriott, pictured in New York City on 9/11, where he was deployed along with Ohio Task Force 1. CONTRIBUTED

Ohio Task Force 1 was deployed to Ground Zero. “On our country’s worst day, someone thought we can help.”

Thousands of first responders and emergency medical crews responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City. One of those responders was Dayton’s Dr. Randy Marriott.

“It doesn’t seem like its been 20 years,” said Marriott, a Premier Health emergency physician who was deployed to the scene around the Twin Towers with others from Ohio Task Force 1 to help with the recovery.

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Marriott had worked the evening shift the night before and woke up that morning as events were already unfolding. At first it wasn’t clear that the crash was intentional, he recalled.

“And then once that became evident, I still really didn’t have a thought that our task force would be called to the city of New York,” he said.

About 11 a.m. pagers started going off, and he realized what was happening. The task force headquarters at that time was at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which was difficult for the team to get to because the base was on high alert.

Marriott immediately went to ground zero when Ohio Task Force 1 first arrived in New York the morning of Sept. 12.

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“As you went across the New Jersey Turnpike, you saw the smoke still rising heavily,” he said. “You could see it a few miles away.”

Nobody was found alive past Sept. 11 by any of the search and rescue teams.

“It’s a grim task and it does weigh on you, but it’s a job that has to be done,” he said.

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The task force, which was there for 10 days, also helped secure a large beam hanging out of the World Financial Center over the West Side Highway, and searched different quadrants of debris and nearby buildings.

“What’s not talked about often is that there were injuries and even fatalities in the surrounding buildings,” he said.

The Ohio search and rescue team’s experience in New York continues to have an impact today. While they were at the Xenia tornado aftermath, the New York City mission was the first federal deployment for Ohio Task Force 1, which is now a seasoned urban search and rescue team deployed for the past 20 years around the country.

“The experience there had driven a lot of us to continue to train and maintain readiness and be ready for the next mission,” Marriott said.

They’ve since been to Louisiana after Hurricane Ida just struck, as well as many other communities dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes. Ohio Task Force 1 also assisted at the Surfside condo collapse in Florida.

“It makes me makes me proud to be part of a group of individuals that develop and maintained such skill. And on our country’s worst day, someone thought we can help,” he said.