Firefighters following creed to leave no one behind in WTC sear

NEW YORK -- Whether they are soldiers fighting in the frozen tundra of Afghanistan, teams searching the Laos jungle for remains of Vietnam War pilots, or firefighters digging into the debris at ground zero, they are driven by a single idea.

No one will be left behind.

A creed with ancient origins, it has been redefined since Sept. 11 -- especially by the New York Fire Department, which has stationed workers at the site around the clock. The department lost 343 members in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

The recent discovery of a load of remains in the wreckage-filled pit where the south tower once stood has given new hope that most of the firefighters -- and the 23 city and 37 Port Authority police officers lost that day -- may ultimately be found and identified. This month alone, 3,000 body parts were found.

"We always bring our members out," said Tom Manley, health and safety officer for the firefighters union. "Talk to anyone, from the chiefs to the probationary firefighters and they all say the same thing -- you bring everybody home. ... And that includes all the civilians."

The ritual of retrieval is well practiced at ground zero. The remains of each firefighter or police officer are covered with a flag and ceremonially marched from the scene as comrades and workers stand and salute.

In Afghanistan, the war has already tested a new generation of soldiers in the battlefield tradition of leaving no one behind.

Of the eight Americans lost in combat during Operation Anaconda last month, one, a Navy SEAL, died battling with al-Qaida fighters after he fell from a helicopter. Six others were killed when an Army unit dispatched to recover his body landed on top of an enemy stronghold. Eventually, all the dead were retrieved.