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Discovering Life’s New Paths Among the Red Rocks

It‘s been nearly 10 years, but the emotions of working at Ground Zero just after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks are still close to the surface for Mark Ranges.

“I don’t look at the pictures. I can watch things on TV, but I still can’t look at the pictures,” he said.

Ranges, owner of Sedona Off Road Center, was in the Emergency Medical Service for 30 years in New Jersey when the twin towers came crashing down.

“I was a volunteer in New Jersey. New Jersey has the largest number of volunteer EMS in the nation – 17,000. It’s a big system. When [September 11] happened, the [New York] city resources were all tied up. Some of us were told to stand by with an ambulance in case of an injury during the search and rescue. Crushed vehicles had to be processed and opened up,” he said. “We had the equipment and the experience to do what needed to be done.”

Their job was to open the vehicles, search for bodies or body parts, personal effects, government property and evidence.

His team worked non-stop for 30 hours before being replaced by the next one.

“We worked on all kinds of vehicles. Ambulances and fire trucks make a huge difference emotionally,” he said.

His son Darryl, now 29, worked by his side.

“No one could have lived through that without it having an impact on you. People we knew were killed there. The perspective is a little different,” he said.

After September 11, the 30 years of EMS had reached the tipping point for Ranges.

“Part of the reason I’m in Arizona and not in New Jersey is that it put an end to my wanting to do it anymore. When you see that kind of thing again and again over time, it is cumulative.”

There were incidents before September 11 that he had dealt with that were tough.

“The urge to go to a different place was stronger. A change of venue was needed,” he said. “In 2003, I was kind of looking for a place to relocate. Nothing felt warm and fuzzy. When I came to Arizona for a visit, it just called out. This is where I wanted to be.”

Four months later, he was here.

He came without a job, but was confident he could find employment, because it was time, too, for a change in career.

His background included 30 years in the cleaning industry working with toxic cleaners.

When he developed pre-cancer, he threw in the cleaning towel and began massage therapy school, which he finished and became licensed.

“I was going to massage school when September 11 happened,” he said.

Since arriving in Arizona, he uses his massage skills less, but likes working on someone to relieve a particular complaint.

His first job in Sedona was driving jeep tours.

“I drove for another company. Because it is legal to ride ATVs here, I thought why don’t we rent them and let them go out and do their own thing. We bought a couple of machines as a part-time thing,” he said.

The business grew from there and now offers six Tomcars and five ATVs.

Ranges started Sedona Off Road Center in January of 2006, just before the economy began its downturn.

“We’ve had our ups and downs and things are better this year so far. We had to do our due diligence because of the economy, but we are surviving,“ he said.

The business keeps him busy, but he does get involved with worthwhile causes in the community. But, he has purposely stayed away from the fire district.

“I am single again. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just the way it is. Coming to Arizona, I found out things about myself and life that did not come across in New Jersey. It’s a totally different lifestyle and it takes some adapting,“ he said.

His son joined him in Arizona, and he has a daughter, Crystal, 34, who lives in Fairfax, Va.

“I enjoy getting out and enjoying the outdoors here. I do hunt deer and elk,” he said. FBN


Sedona Off Road Center is at 211 State Route 179 in Sedona. The phone number is HYPERLINK “tel:%28928%29%20282-5599″928-282-5599.


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