Retired firefighter Arthur Gonsalves took a deep breath looking at the monitors on the wall. 

The April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, including 19 children, isn't just another anniversary for him. 

Gonsalves -- a longtime veteran of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District -- was alerted to the mayhem via pager. 

"To realize that somebody did that and did it to other people that they didn't even know, to children, it's just overwhelming," he said. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency uses local firefighters, like Gonsalves, as part of its Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. They support these teams with grant dollars and training. 

Sacramento and Phoenix were the first task forces to be activated after the Oklahoma City bombing. More task forces, including Virginia Beach and New York City, were activated later.

"We typically send out the closest three teams to the event, after that we use a rotational system," FEMA spokeswoman Brandi Richard said. "In this event, we sent more than three teams." 

Gonsalves and the rest of the task force, which included firefighters from West Sacramento to El Dorado County, arrived in Oklahoma City later that night. They started searching right away. The shifts were 12 hours. 

"The first place we searched was the second story nursery," Gonsalves said. "That was tough." 

Arthur's son, Brian, was just 11 years old when his father responded to Oklahoma City. 

He told ABC10 back then that he needed his mother's permission to join the search and rescue team. 

His father's deployment to Oklahoma City affirmed his career choice as a firefighter. Brian joined the district in 2004, at 20 years old. 

Now, he's a captain. He later joined FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force in 2008. But, what about mom's permission? 

"Ha! No I didn't (need it)," Brian said. 

Sacramento's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force is one of eight in California. They've responded to a host of catastrophes, including Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. 

There are 28 task forces nationwide. 

Take at look at how the emergency response played out during the Oklahoma City bombing below: