SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The COVID-19 Pandemic has thrust FEMA into a new role, the agency seeking out everything from ventilators to now PPE.
Tom Von Essen serves as the Regional Administrator of FEMA Region II, which includes all of New York State.
He was also the fire commissioner for FDNY during the September 11th attacks.
Von Essen reflected on these two historic times in our history for NewsChannel 9, calling 9/11 personal because he lost 343 firefighters that day.
“Everybody else got to normal right away, not us at the fire department or us in NYC, but everybody else got to normal and I think that’s a good way to describe it, none of us are getting to normal yet and who knows when,” he says.
Von Essen says FEMA suddenly finds itself in a whole new role now during this pandemic.
“What we normally do is get people to remove debris, we help people get a hospital open, get things back in business. But what my guys have been talking about with this operation is acquiring material we’ve never done before,” he tells NewsChannel 9.
He adds, “That’s been the most difficult part trying to get materials that aren’t available, and everybody in the world is looking for a gown, a mask, a face shield.”
Von Essen says he’s proud of what his team has been able to do for all the men and women on the frontlines of this health crisis.
“I remember on September 11th you get to see the best of people when these horrible things happen,” he says.
FEMA has obligated $1.36 million for New York to respond to COVID-19.