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Archive for Thursday, August 1, 1996

JUDGE TRADES DOCKET FOR DUTY AT COAST GUARD FOOD STATION

August 1, 1996

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— Red Cross volunteers, including a New York family court judge, feed the masses involved in TWA Flight 800 search efforts.

Kerry Trainor's world normally revolves around distressed people passing through Huntington family court.

But hours after learning of the TWA Flight 800 disaster, Judge Trainor set down his worn gavel. The former prosecutor picked up a shiny fork and pitched in to help feed hundreds of rescue and recovery workers assigned to the Coast Guard station in East Moriches.

"I do it because I want to help. I'm no different than the others," said Trainor, who is involved with the Suffolk County chapter of the American Red Cross.

"Most people in this country don't understand. They think New Yorkers are just cold fish. We're not. Hundreds of volunteers (are) down here. People care."

For Trainor, Hell's Kitchen was behind a wall of police checkpoints in a makeshift community of tents at the tiny Coast Guard installation.

This tent city serves as hub for a contingent of federal, state and county agencies that converged to piece together what happened to the Paris flight that ended in violent death for 230 people.

Divers and investigators have turned to the Red Cross tent at mealtime since the beginning of the operation. Food is available 24 hours a day.

Local restaurants -- Hooters in Islandia, for example -- sent waitresses in tight shorts and T-shirts to the compound bearing sandwiches, chicken and fruit.

"It's important for these men and women to be served food -- good food -- with a smile. I think it offers a few minutes of diversion," Trainor said.

As it turned out, it didn't hurt to have a local judge on the kitchen cabinet.

"I can get things done," he said.

With a little effort, he said, a telephone and a trailer was secured to improve efficiency of the portable restaurant.

Before the influx of equipment and people, the Coast Guard center was little more than a boathouse, dock and four-car garage. Now, scores of boats rotate through the facility. Huge military helicopters roar in and out on a new paved landing zone. Emergency vehicles parked on soft, sandy stretches of the station have wheels sunk to hubcap level. A tow truck routinely yanks them out.

The news media is granted limited access to the Coast Guard center. TV reporters feeding the world with the news are deployed along a one-lane road leading to the facility. CNN and a few others have taken up a position across the cove from the Coast Guard, which offers a view of diving boats.

On Friday, Trainor will have to put down his spoon. Duty calls. He'll return to the courthouse to hear a bundle of divorce and child custody cases. It's a place were he can make sense of the world.

But distance won't prevent him his thoughts from returning to the individuals laboring off Long Island's coast.

"This work with the Red Cross is more satisfying that what I do at work. Here, with the Red Cross, it's a 100 percent positive thing. In court, it's 50-50. Someone is always happy if they win. Others are sad when they don't."

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