The last two issues of Allegro have reported on the contributions made by many 802 members in the aftermath of Sept. 11. They have played in memorial services and at respite centers; they have performed in fundraisers that raised millions of dollars; and they have taken wage cuts that kept seven Broadway shows alive.
But one 802 member, drummer Wally Gator Watson, played a more immediate and direct role in the rescue efforts – as an EMS technician. He spent Sept. 11 and the two following days at the site of the disaster. He arrived at ground zero just before Building 7 collapsed, and “had to take off running,” he told Allegro. Mr. Watson is an employee of MetroCare Ambulance, which also responds to 911 calls. Another MetroCare emergency medical technician, Yamel Merino, 25, died in the collapse of the towers.
Since Sept. 11, Mr. Watson has been doing a lot of benefits, including one with the Daily News for court officers who died at the WTC.
He started training as an emergency technician after he helped rescue a driver from a wreck, and was encouraged to pursue training in the field. He had been working with the Lionel Hampton big band and saw this as a good way to help Hampton, who had suffered a stroke some time earlier, if health problems arose. “On tour, I’m not only his drummer – I’m his nurse.”
Some time later, an EMT supervisor at Madison Square Garden asked him to work some events. “I’ve been here almost five years, and now I’m a senior supervisor of EMS at the Garden, working sports and entertainment events.” He has also worked on several movies, as a set medic.
“It helps me financially, and allows me to maintain my status as a clinician and drummer,” he told Allegro. “I’ve always had a desire to do this kind of work. God works in mysterious ways – and there’s a reason for everything we learn.”