September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:I woke up to radio news reports of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. I immediately turned on the television and was greeted by the image of the South Tower collapsing in living color on CNN.

I called in to my American Red Cross chapter, the Oregon Trail Chapter in Portland, Oregon, where I am both a local disaster responder and a national disaster responder specializing in Public Affairs. I reported to our disaster human resources coordinator that I would be available to respond.

I went back to watching the news, and saw Tower 1 collapse a few minutes later.

Response:Shortly after calling in to the chapter, I received a call back from our Public Affairs Manager asking me to report to the chapter and assist with our local media response. I did so and spent most of the next 10 days working on news media contacts, talking to Red Cross Public Affairs responders already on the ground in New York and at the Pentagon, photographing related events at the chapter such as donor check presentations, assisting with VIP visits, and also assisting the Public Affairs staff at the regional Blood Services center, which shared our building.

While assisting on local activities, I remained on call to respond nationally. I "got the call" Sep. 20 to respond to the disaster relief operation at the Pentagon, and departed Sep. 21. I spent the next week on site at the Pentagon, photographing the recovery and relief activities, supporting public functions in the Washington, D.C. area, responding to media inquiries and requests, and creating media products such as the operation newsletter.

On Sep. 27, I was notified that I would be going to New York City the following day. After closing out my task at the Pentagon, I took a train to New York and reported in to the headquarters there. For the next two weeks, I worked at our operation headquarters in Brooklyn and at several Red Cross relief sites in lower Manhattan close to the World Trade Center site, including Service Centers 1 and 2 and Respite Centers 1 and 3. I also spent time working at the city's Family Assistance Center at Pier 94, as well as the Joint Information Center at the FEMA field headquarters.

One of my most significant memories of this period was supporting the activities in Respite Centers 1 and three, which assistied the thousands of rescue and recovery workers clearing the World Trade Center site. I photographed the activities there, and provided information to our clients on the available services we offered. I was struck by the care and concern shown toward them, even in little touches such as placing chocolates and teddy bears on the cots in the sleeping areas were they could go to get a few hours rest.

During the first weekend in October, I also participated in the activities of the "Flight For Freedom", a group of nearly 1,000 fellow Oregonians who traveled to New York City in a show of fellowship and solidarity. During their stay, I attended their rally at Union Square, led a group of them to lower Manhattan to see some of our relief sites and to visit "Ground Zero", did a news segment with a film crew from the Portland CBS affiliate, and marched with them up 5th Avenue in the city's annual Columbus Day parade.

I also vividly remember Oct. 11, when I was asked to photograph activities at our newest Respite Center, #3, which had opened a few days previously. To get to the site, you had to walk down West Street from Respite 1, right past the debris pile that had been the two WTC towers. To be right up there as close as 50 feet from what was both a crime scene and a massive tomb, with hundreds of relief workers busily working around me, was at once both awe-inspiring and sobering, especially after I saw the "cross", a twisted, jagged piece of structural steel in the shape of a cross, that relief crews had excavated from the rubble and placed on a concrete pedestal along the street as a sign of inspiration. And to experience this on what was my 49th birthday...

Returning to Portland Oct. 13, I continued to respond locally and, as a disaster services course instructor in Public Affairs, began to incorporate some of the early lessons learned into my cousre material.

Since the response in New York City was then and still is an ongoing effort, I decided to go back for a second assignment. I traveled to New York City Dec. 10 and spent the next 18 days again supporting our Public Affairs efforts. Since this was during the holiday season, I had the opportunity to experience Christmas in New York while helping our thousands of clients and responders.

On one of my days off, I visited a New York Fire Department station near Times Square that had lost a firefighter on Sep. 11 who had the same name as me. I thought this was important for me to do so since I am also a volunteer firefighter. I talked to some of his brother firefighters, and placed several items on the memorial that they had placed at the station.

One of the my most significant memories from this assignment took place on Christmas Eve. We had closed our service centers early that day because a local organization was providing a Christmas party for our responders. I had stopped in at one of our service centers in lower Manhattan to check on our Public Affairs responder there, and encountered a client who was running late and arrived too late to see a caseworker. She had had some difficulties redeeming the assistance vouchers we had provided her, and had returned to get the problem resolved. The vouchers were important to her because she needed to take them to her market and get groceries, including Christmas dinner for her family. I could not, in good conscience, let her leave without help, so I pulled out my wallet and handed her my remaining $25 in cash to ensure that she could at least have dinner for her family. She hugged me and said "God bless you" as we both left the building, and I could feel the tears in my eyes as I headed uptown for our party.

Since my return home to Portland Dec. 28, I continued to incorporate my lessons learned into my instructor materials and into my local response activities. I archived the photographs that I took for the Red Cross while on assignment there, and have since provided them to the Red Cross Sept. 11 Recovery Program, where they are now part of their permanent archive.

Affects:I have served as an American Red Cross responder at both the local and national level since 1995, and in no other response have I seen such an outpouring of care, concern and unselfish cooperation as I did following Sep. 11. The wide range of volunteers I worked with, many of them with their own experiences of what had happened to them Sep. 11 (including some who had lost family members and friends in the attacks) made me extremely fortunate to be a part of this, and extremely proud to make my own small contribution.

Many of the people whom I met while on assignment were brand new volunteers, and I am pleased that so many of them used this opportunity to remain as committed volunteers with the Red Cross and with other organizations. While it is unfortunate that it often takes significant disasters such as this to bring out the best in people, the fact that they do come out, instead of retreating inward and thinking only of themselves, heartens me considerably.

Red Cross Volunteer:yes

Red Cross Employee:no


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