Geidel continues solemn search for his brother at the World Trade Center

By BILL VARBLE

Ralph Geidel has been to more New York funerals lately than he cares to think about. But the one that would mean the most - the one for his brother Gary - hasn't happened yet.

A member of the Fire Department of New York's elite Rescue One force, Gary Geidel rushed into the World Trade Center Sept. 11 and was lost in the chaos. Ralph Geidel, of Seiad Valley in Northern California and a Rescue One veteran, joined firefighters at ground zero to try to find his brother after the terrorist attacks.

On Thursday, Barbara Geidel, Ralph's wife, flew from Medford to New York to be with her husband and his family.

"They still haven't found Gary," she says. "It's really hard. They've recovered more than 70 firefighters, but Gary's not among them."

Barbara said friends at Rescue One told her they have only two firefighters still missing, and Gary Geidel is one.

"You're happy for families that are getting closure," she says, "but you're still searching."

Ralph and Barbara Geidel tried for four days to get Ralph to New York City to join his dad and brothers when commercial planes were grounded after Sept. 11. They finally got Ralph on a plane from Medford with help from the White House. The couple's son, Ralph Jr., a U.S. Army sergeant, also joined his family at ground zero during a 30-day leave from his base in Colorado.

Ralph's other brother, Mike, also a Rescue One member, dug for Gary, as did the brothers' father, Paul, a retired Rescue One lieutenant.

Barbara said it wasn't until about three weeks after the attacks that Ralph could bring himself to speak of Gary as being dead.

"One day he said, 'Those bastards killed my brother,' " she says.

Now she figures it's time to see what's going on with her own eyes. She'll stay with Ralph's family on Staten Island, where she'll see her niece Tillie, 6, who lost her father. And she'll visit the WTC site.

"I've been there, and been up on top of the observation deck," she says. "I know how massive they were. I've been told you can't describe it until you see it. I have to see it.

"I wish I were going under different circumstances."

Barbara says people who want to contribute directly to firefighters' families can do so in care of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, Widows and Orphans Fund, 204 E. 23 St., N.Y., NY 10010.

Barbara Geidel was born in the Philippines and grew up in San Diego. She and her husband live in a remote part of Northern California with a parrot named Charlie. Ralph is an Army veteran and a gold miner.

Barbara said she's not nervous about flying.

"If anybody gets froggy on my aircraft," she said, "I'm going into attack mode."

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com


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Mike and Gary Geidel