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Bin Laden death brings closure but no joy to two ground zero responders in Tampa

For seven nights after the Sept. 11 attacks, Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Mark Bogush searched for survivors at ground zero with his black Lab, Marley.

He didn't find any.

A search-and-rescue specialist, he and fellow Tampa specialist Lt. Roger Picard combed through the mountain of rubble, twisted steel and remnants of life during grueling 12-hour shifts.

Their mission quickly became about recovering personal items and human remains to help identify sons and daughters and parents and friends lost in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Bogush and Picard understand the value of closure.

And that's what the death of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind all the suffering, helped accomplish Sunday night, Bogush said.

"It's just un-American not to want to get some payback," said Bogush, a 24-year Tampa Fire Rescue veteran.

• • •

Bogush found out late Sunday night.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had just pulled off a surprising overtime victory against the Washington Capitals and Bogush was on Facebook chatting with friends.

A friend sent him the message.

Bogush, 48, isn't the type of guy to jump up and down and high-five people. He's not the kind of man who'd go somewhere and celebrate bin Laden's death.

His first reaction? He hoped it was true. Then, satisfaction.

"There was no doubt it was good to see the U.S. military get ahold of the guy responsible … and get some payback. I felt a lot of pride for American military, personally."

Picard, 54, a 17-year Tampa fire veteran, found out late Sunday after he had gone to bed at the fire station.

A voice came over the intercom as he lay in bed: "I don't know if you guys know, but Osama bin Laden is dead. We got him," Picard recalled.

Picard didn't jump up and hoot and holler either.

"I can't say I celebrated," he said. "It's different when you actually walk on the hallowed ground. You don't celebrate."

Picard vividly recalled searching with his yellow Lab, Jessie. He remembered picking up drivers' licenses to help with identification. He remembered the time he recovered a Mickey Mouse cap with a name on it. He doesn't know if it found its owner.

Like Bogush and the rest of his team, he didn't find any survivors. He tried not to lose hope, imagining people sitting in a break room in the basement wondering when rescue crews would come.

His beloved dog helped him keep going.

He said Jessie would tug on her leash and pull him down the stairs and on to the bus, itching to get started.

"They wanted to go work," Picard said. "They never quit. Trust me. You couldn't stop them. It was inspiring."

Bin Laden death brings closure but no joy to two ground zero responders in Tampa 05/02/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2011 2:03pm]
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