For the first time Nebraska Task Force 1 speaks about their time in Columbus

“Thank you.”

Two words that mean so much to the men and women of Nebraska Task Force One.

“Being able to see them help someone and that person give you a hug when they get off the boat or when you hear the National Guard say they’ve evacuated the person safely in their helicopter that’s huge. We don’t need thank you we don’t anything like that but just hearing that and seeing that does go a long ways,” Nebraska Task Force One leader Dan Ripley said. 

Lincoln Fire Captain Dan Ripley and firefighter paramedic Brady Papik were two of eight members of Nebraska Task Force One that answered the call for help on March 11 when flood waters overtook the town of Columbus.

It was the first time the task force was activated to serve in its homestate.

The eight man crew made the hour-and-half trek from Lincoln to Columbus preparing for what they were about to encounter.

“It’s nothing like I’ve ever really seen before. Most of us have been around the country responding to hurricanes and different flooding, but this was different,” water rescue specialist Brady Papik said.

“We saw semi’s floating down these streams, we ice chunks the size of vehicles that our boat operators had to navigate around so it was a very intense, very critical, very serious situation knowing that we still had people that were in these waters or in their homes still in these waters that were rising with flood waters that needed to get out,” Ripley said.

For two days the task force performed over a dozen rescues pulling people from their flooded homes.

When missions became too dangerous the National Guard was called in to assist with helicopters.

Rescuers risked everything, including their lives, getting in icy waters to get people to safety.

“When you’re in ice cold water, it’s just very, very cold. It’s a mental thing that you have to overcome your fingers pretty much going numb and your toes going numb and just being cold, but we’re there to do a job so that’s what we do,” Papik said.

Once back on dry land many of those who were rescued were overcome with gratitude.

Channel 8 Eyewitness News was there as the Nebraska Task Force One pulled Tanya Feffer’s mom and her two dogs to safety.

Feffer was at a loss for words for the brave men who saved her mom’s life, “Thank you. Their efforts are not recognized enough. They’re risking their lives every day for innocent by–standers, for people that try and wait it out that didn’t anticipate the waters to rise this high, just thank you.”

For the rescuers who selflessly serve on the task force, they don’t do it for the thanks, the desire to help fuels their passion.

“It’s truly an honor as Nebraska Task Force One to be able to be there for those people in that time and help them through that,” Ripley said.

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