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Shea, Queens parks act as rescue staging areas

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Queens and Long Island firefighters and emergency service rescue workers mobilized their crews at Cunningham Park and Shea Stadium Tuesday as they waited to join their comrades in Lower Manhattan after the Twin Towers were destroyed by terrorists.

Police and fire fighters from as far away as Suffolk County were called in to help find survivors and provide relief for the crews who arrived on the scene early Tuesday morning.

Emergency vehicles also converged on Fort Totten in Bayside, which acted as a staging area Tuesday afternoon. A U.S. Coast Guard boat stood guard in Little Bay.

About 500 Queens firefighters reported to Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows on their day off Tuesday. They were joined by volunteer firefighters from Long Island and trucks from East Islip and Babylon in Nassau County.

At about 6 p.m. members of Engine Company 303, Ladder 315 in Briarwood, Ladder 121 in the Rockaways and Ladder 126 were getting on to MTA buses that would take them to Shea Stadium and then to the rubble, which was all that remained of the city's two tallest buildings.

"It is a real mess," said Capt. Robert Bell of Engine Company 303 in South Jamaica, who was on his way to Shea and had only seen the carnage on television. "The department recalled everyone who was off-duty."

He said once his company arrived at Shea, all of the logistics would be worked out and every member would get the tools needed to do their jobs.

"I wish we could have gotten in earlier," Mike Sandhaas, a firefighter for Ladder 121 in the Rockaways said of the rescue effort in downtown Manhattan.

Keith Devenish, a firefighter with Ladder 315 in Briarwood, spent most of the morning in Cunningham Park waiting to be sent to the World Trade Center.

"I feel like I would rather be there than here," Devenish said. "I just feel bad for the guys who had to respond first."

Devenish expected to work through the night shift to relieve the firefighters who started their day at the World Trade Center.

By Wednesday morning, Shea Stadium was virtually deserted except for the usual police presence. The Mets had been scheduled to play an away game in Pittsburgh Tuesday night, but it was canceled after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Borough President Claire Shulman, called on all Queens residents to donate blood for victims of the

On Wednesday morning there were about 90 people waiting to donate blood at Elmhurst Hospital, Andrews said. The hospital has also taken in 37 people who were injured in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

In Lower Manhattan Tuesday members of the 105th Precinct in Queens Village and the 109th Precinct in Flushing were called in to aid with rescue. An officer from the 105th Precinct, which stretches from Glen Oaks to Rosedale, said his group expected to be working around the clock while rescue crews continued to search for victims trapped alive in the rubble.

At the scene Liz Burke, a Jackson Heights resident and manager at Verizon who wokrs at 141 West St. - adjacent to Building 7 in the World Trade Center - said she was on the telephone with her boss when the first plane hit the north tower.

"All of a sudden there was a big bang. We thought it was construction upstairs, that they had dropped something heavy," Burke said. "Then the lights flickered, and half the floor ran to the windows" to look out.

Many staff members who had been at the World Trade Center during the 1993 terrorist bombing were crying, she said. Some were screaming "it's the Trade Center again," Burke said.

The second plane hit about 15 minutes later while World Trade Center employees were rushing down the stairwells, which went dark during the evacuation, she said.

Burke said the impact from planes hitting the towers felt like a mild earthquake. After fleeing the building, she said people stood around gawking at what had just happened.

"You could see at least 20 to 25 people flying off the tower," she said. "You didn't want to look."

- Reporter Kathianne Boniello contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 220-0300, Ext. 1547.

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