Greater Pittston first responders recall 9/11 events, talk about changes within units since then

By Jimmy Fisher - | September 9th, 2016 1:04 pm

Pittston City Councilman Michael Lombardo can easily recall where he was when he heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Lombado, who currently serves as a city fire fighter and vice president of the Greater Pittston Regional Ambulance Association, was in law school at the time.

“…We were just getting ready to go to class and (Wyoming Borough and Wyoming Area solicitor) Jarrett Ferentino was my roommate,” Lombardo said. “He mentioned that a plane flew into the trade center. Most people assumed it was a smaller-type plane and some sort of accident. Then I started getting myself together for class and my cousin Rob … called me, who worked with the ambulance association at that time, said a plane flew into the building and told me it was a second plane. Like most people I was glued to the TV after that.”

Lombardo, who was part of the ambulance association at the time, said he was ready to drop everything and go to New York City.

But he said it was “a helpless situation.”

“Being in the emergency services I wanted to act and wanted to fix this,” he said.

Since that day Greater Pittston first responders have worked to learn from the incident and ensure nothing like that happens in the area.

Fire departments and ambulance associations, Lombardo said, have gone to extreme lengths to train their first responders for any and all situations.

Lombardo said they receive military-style training as well.

“We send our guys to tactical trainings that were learned overseas in Iraq and we are training some of our medics for particular situations,” he said. “We’re also more aware of hazardous materials and we have to be prepared for unified command. Now, there is cooperation amongst emergency services.”

Avoca Chief of Police Dave Homschek said he’d just started working part-time for the department when he heard the news of the attacks on 9/11, and he said since then police everywhere are more cautious than ever.

“It was the law enforcement in general that changed, not just Avoca” he said. “Prior to 9/11, if you’d seen a suspicious bag on the street corner there wouldn’t be as much heightened awareness as there is now.”

Jeff Balut, Hughestown Chief of Police, echoed Homschek’s statement and said officers are now out in the field with more armor and ammunition.

He said the 9/11 attacks changed the mentality of all law enforcement, in big cities and small towns.

“It did away with the ‘can’t happen here’ mentality because it can happen here and sometimes it does,” Balut said. “A lot of guys in the past who may not have worn their vests, or carry extra ammo, now they do. They know they might be the only thing that thwarts something from happening.”

Homschek said police also use social media to help acquire information and assist with investigations of suspects.

He added that with more tools and knowledge on hand, departments are working closer than ever.

“A lot changed post-9/11 and I feel like there wasn’t much information shared prior, but after it we saw more databases pop (up) and more information sharing amongst the departments on the federal and state levels,” said Homschek. “Now, with the tools we have, it not only helps with the role of terrorism, but by having tools available to us with information being shared we have more information at our fingertips so we can also solve robberies and burglaries.”

Lombardo said the Greater Pittston Ambulance Association and the city police and fire departments all work together now to keep Pittston safe and to ensure no situation is taken lightly.

“Pittston has a good operation between the police, fire and ambulance association,” he said. “It’s more of the same people operating the three, but it’s something we’ve taken to heart and practice on a day-to-day basis.”
Homschek Sunday Dispatch File Photos
Lombardo Sunday Dispatch File Photos
Balut Sunday Dispatch File Photos
The American flag waves in the wind on Kennedy Boulevard in Pittston. American flag waves in the wind on Kennedy Boulevard in Pittston. Jimmy Fisher | Sunday Dispatch
Officials say units have taken more precautionary measures since then

By Jimmy Fisher

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