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They don't look forward to what awaits them in New York City, but they look forward to the opportunity to help.

That seemed to be the prevailing sentiment among 36 volunteers, most of them medical personnel, from 12 local fire departments, who left Monday from the Erie County Fire Training Academy in Cheektowaga to help out at the site of the World Trade Center disaster.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be asked to go," said Jody Feidt, a paramedic with Colden Fire Company.

There is a connection among all firefighters, and the Western New York volunteers are glad to do anything they can to help the Fire Department of New York, which lost hundreds of members, she said.

The Erie County contingent is expected to work two 12-hour shifts, relieving New York crews and helping out with any injuries that occur among rescue workers. Nineteen volunteers from Cattaraugus County also left for New York City Monday while 24 volunteers from Chautauqua County were scheduled to leave today.

"It's a big honor to help out," said Joe Nero, an emergency medical technician with Lake View Fire Company, who was given time off from his job at the Tops Distribution Center.

"I'm proud to have the opportunity," he said.

Jeff Snyder of Holland, an advanced emergency medical technician, called the opportunity "very humbling."

Michael Walters, Erie County commissioner of emergency services, said there was no problem attracting volunteers under the state mutual-aid plan.

"People rise to the occasion," he said. "This is what it's about."

He said he hopes the response of the volunteers will inspire others to join their local fire departments.

Don Corey, an advanced EMT from Holland, said his girlfriend, Sue Przystal, "was pretty understanding" of his going to New York.

"But if I'm not back by Saturday, well, let's put it this way: We'll know she's there," he said.

Saturday is their wedding day.


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