New York fire fighters are being assisted by thousands of volunteers from all over the United States and from various other countries. For the past week Hector Mendez and about a dozen other Mexicans have been working on site at the World Trade Center looking in vain for survivors. It is difficult and sometimes dangerous work, but it is nothing new to them. They are so-called "topos" or moles, called this because they literally burrow into the ruins of fallen buildings looking for possible signs of life.
Since the group was formed following the Mexico City earthquake in 1985, Mr. Mendez says they have traveled far and wide outside Mexico aiding disaster victims. He says the "topos" put themselves at risk in order to crawl deep into the rubble looking for signs of life. He says they do this because they know the anxiety of family members of victims who wait, clinging to the hope that survivors will be found. Mr. Mendez says he and his team often go to these family members to console them and to pledge themselves to do everything possible to find their loved ones.
The Mexican relief worker says that, after hundreds of firemen and other relief workers died in the collapse of the World Trade Center, authorities on the site made safety for rescue workers the first priority. For the Mexicans, however, recovery of survivors is their first priority and they insist on being given the chance to crawl deep down into the wreckage. He says other relief teams sometimes view them as crazy, but he says the only way to do this work is to go in and try. He says his team members learned how to do this work by doing it, not in a practice exercise, but at actual disaster sites.
Authorities say there is very little hope now of finding anyone alive at the site in lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center towers collapsed. But Mexico's "topos" and thousands of other relief workers from around the world have at least been able to assure family members of the missing that every possible effort has been made to find survivors.