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Chicago Police Sergeant Remembers Volunteering At Ground Zero

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago Police Sergeant who led a group of 19 officers from Chicago to New York City 10 years ago is looking back on the days they spent volunteering at Ground Zero.

“It was just amazing to see,” said Sgt. Joe Maraffino.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, Maraffino says the officers worked from 12 to 18 hours a day, “wherever they wanted us to go.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

Maraffino says one day they spent taking residents of condemned buildings on the edge of Ground Zero back up to get a few belongings.

“As we’re walking up, one of my friends went up a couple floors more than I did. He was with an older couple,” Maraffino said, “and he finds a stuffed bear out on the balcony.”

Maraffino’s friend asked the couple if it the stuffed bear was theirs, and they said no. They said it had come from either in the building or on the plane.

“Here it is on these people’s porch,” he said.

Maraffino also remembers the people of New York expressing their thanks to anyone who came in to help.

“New Yorkers were on the side with signs – ‘Thank you for volunteering. Thank you for helping.’ – all up and down,” he said.

One of the volunteers at Ground Zero was actress Loretta Swit of MASH fame.

“She was just in the back there cooking,” Maraffino said. “Somebody happened to say, ‘Hey, that’s Loretta Swit.’ And we said, ‘Are you Loretta Swit?’ and she said yes.

“I said, ‘Thank you for doing this,’” he said. “She thanked us for coming and helping.”

Sergeant Maraffino says he and his group of 19 Chicago police officers used five days of their vacation time to volunteer.