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Central County residents honored for efforts after terrorist attacks


AS THE NATION reeled from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many Americans rushed to help, including three - actually four - Central County residents.

Now Laurie Collins of Glen Burnie and her golden retriever, Irish, and George S. Everly and Rob Knickerbocker of Severna Park - all of whom volunteered during the crisis - will represent area 9/11 volunteers as grand marshals of the Greater Severna Park Independence Day Parade. The parade begins at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

Collins, 40, says her dog is the real grand marshal and that she's just the chauffeur. But it was her skill and dedication that turned her 9 1/2 -year-old "golden boy" into a registered therapy dog, performing far beyond normal canine commands.

Collins, a word processor for court reporters, and Irish regularly visit county nursing homes, hospitals and schools as part of the Pets on Wheels program. After the attack on the Pentagon, Collins took Irish to the Pentagon Family Assistance Center in Crystal City, Va., where families were waiting for help and information.

One day, Irish was lying by Collins' side when a toddler started crying. Irish immediately stood up, made eye contact with the child and moved toward him, as he is trained to do. The child saw Irish and stopped crying, says Collins.

Therapy Dogs International has certified Irish as a disaster stress relief dog.

Clinical psychologist George Everly, 52, was called to New York after Sept. 11 to help police, fire personnel and American Red Cross workers cope with the mental stress of their duties.

His experience with crisis response - he directed the establishment of a network of community health centers in Kuwait after its invasion by Iraq and helped federal agencies develop peer support for agents after the Oklahoma City bombing - prepared Everly for his work in New York.

In 1989, the Maryland native co-founded the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation - now the world's largest crisis-response network. He is on the faculties of Loyola College, the Johns Hopkins University and the Universidad de Flores de Buenos Aires. He also has been honored by the Baltimore Police Department, the American Red Cross and the Maryland Psychological Association. And he was an honored guest in May at the closing ceremonies of the recovery work at the World Trade Center.

Everly and his wife, Eileen Newman, also a clinical psychologist, are the parents of Marideth, 22, George, 18, and Andrea, 9.

When Rob Knickerbocker, 35, a 1984 graduate of Severna Park High School, heard about the devastation of the attakcs, he also was prepared to help. An emergency medical technician and water rescue technician, Knickerbocker is certified in high angle vertical rescue (cliff rescue). He received much of his training as a member of the San Diego rescue team while attending San Diego State University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in industrial psychology.

After the attacks, Knickerbocker finished his work at Computer Task Group in Baltimore, packed his EMT certification and rescue gear, said goodbye to his wife, Jennifer, and headed to New York. There he was assigned to a team of firefighters from Chicago and Canada.

He recalls their harrowing ride to the World Trade Center site. They piled into a Chevrolet Blazer - seven firefighters with all their gear, plus Rob and the driver. Their feet were hanging out the back, he says. "The guys inside held on to the belts of two guys on the running boards, and we took off, flying down the road."

At the site, there were no living victims to treat, so they joined a bucket brigade, sifting through rubble. Knickerbocker worked through the day and night and left for home the next morning as the sun was coming up.

"I was one of the lucky people to be able to do something tangible," says Knickerbocker, "I'm being recognized for something that I was able to do. Don't discount the contributions of those that couldn't be there. Their prayers, donations, putting American flags on their houses and signs on the beltway - that was just as powerful."

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