After a feverish week in Haiti where they saved six lives, members of the NYPD-FDNY search and rescue team were lauded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a ceremony that included edible keys to the city gobbled up by four rescue dogs involved in the unit's work.
"It is my pleasure to welcome home the 80 miracle workers," said Bloomberg of the team members who arrived home early Sunday. "They showed once again that New York City is home to the bravest, finest fire and police departments in the world."
Speaking at a City Hall ceremony, the first Haitian-born city councilman, Mathieu Eugene, was just as enthusiastic. "You are really the angels who flew to Haiti to save the life of my brothers and sisters . . . you are true ambassadors of what America stands for."
Bloomberg, who was joined by police Commissioner Ray Kelly, fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano and other officials, gave each of the members of New York Task Force One a certificate.
But the real show-stealers turned out to be the four canine members of the unit - Aragon, Caesar, Storm and Hunter. The mayor called the four in, one at a time, and gave each large key-shaped dog biscuits, flavored with chicken, fish or liver. The dogs promptly demolished the treats, leaving just a few crumbs on the Blue Room carpet.
FDNY battalion Chief Joseph Downey of West Islip, the unit's co-commander, with police Deputy Insp. Robert Lukash, said the rescue team was accepted with open arms by the Haitians.
"All we got was love from them; they wanted us in their community, they wanted our help," said Downey, whose father, Ray, started the rescue unit before his death in the Sept. 11 attacks.
"It was extremely rewarding to get the six lives we saved, especially the last two kids," Downey said.