Ohio Task Force 1 coping with mental strain of searching for remains at collapsed Florida condo


SURFSIDE, Florida (WDTN) – In Florida, Ohio Task Force 1 is resuming the search for victims now that the rest of the damaged condo has been demolished. Ohio canines have already located some remains Monday.

Ohio Task Force 1 is split into teams alternating 12-hour shifts to comb through the rubble. They are locating remains, which is the goal of the mission, but team leaders say it takes a mental toll.

Evan Schumann, the Ohio Task Force 1 Program Manager, says, “I’ve been watching everywhere the team goes, somebody will pat you on the back. ‘How was the conversation with home last night? How are you doing? Did you get a meal?'”

Schumann says the physical work of combing piece-by-piece through the rubble of the collapsed condo is physically grueling. But since the mission is to locate the bodies of the victims, he adds the mental toll of the task weighs on team members. So the team doctors monitor both physical and mental health, with two checks a day.

Schumann says, “They check for our physical and then they’ll look you in the eye and say ‘how are you doing? Did you get some sleep last night? Have you called home?'”

Some team members were at the World Trade Center collapse nearly 20 years ago. Schumann calls them extraordinary leaders. He says the support within the team and from home is beyond positive. “It’s the bonding. It’s what changes you from a team into almost like a family environment. It’s extraordinary.”

But he stops short of saying the mission is successful so far, instead saying Task Force 1 is simply doing its job. “I hate to use the word success when there’s so much tragedy and burden for the family members of this thing, let’s say more than success we’re effectively engaging and accomplishing our mission.”

Whenever FEMA activates a search team, it’s for a minimum 16-day deployment. Schumann says that would last until next Wednesday, but Ohio Task Force 1 is ready to stay longer if FEMA needs them.

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