September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:I was sent to the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross to help in answering the overwhelming number of calls to the hot line. Half way through the training someone came in and named 20 people, to go to the Pentagon and 20 to go to New York City (NYC), the World Trade Center (WTC), I was on the Pentagon's list. At lunch several people were going over the new plan and I over heard an older gentlemen saying that he could not go to NYC it would be too hard, and he did not want to let his chapter down by not being able to handle that trip. I said I would trade trips and go to the NYC WTC. I had no idea what I was in for or how it would forever change my life. So that is how I ended up in NYC right after that awful day. I was assigned to a special unit there of only 8 caseworkers. We were sent to Staten Island to a Retreat location. Our assignment was explained as follows: you will only see the emergency workers families and survivors (but we did see a few other people though.) The reason for this location is so the news media would not seek out and find family members standing in the lines to get help and expose their personal suffering on the news papers or TV, this problem grew and that is why this location was picked, on private property. Our team of ARC caseworkers worked side by side with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) counseling unit and the New York Police Department (NYPD) Staten Island Special Units Department. The eight of us had a wonderful working relationship with both departments. Between the two departments they had made arrangements to pick us up in the mornings from our hotels and takes us to work and then take us back to the hotels. The reasoning was they did not want the media to follow us or find out where the families was getting assistance. The counseling unit would call the fireman's family or the fireman and have them come to our location to sign up for assistance. This was a awesome way to work. One day six out of the eight of us had been asked "have you been down to the WTC site?" It was shocking, to say the least. I was setting with a Battalion. Chief's wife and the appointment was going as well under the circumstances. ( as a case worker I was trying to be as understanding as possible without coming across lame.) This very brave woman looked me straight into the eyes and said have you been to the site? And what did you think? How did you feel? Well I am sure my eyes said "oh my gosh" I said no ma'am I have not been down there we are not aloud to go there, she said to me then how can you, any of you sit here and act as if you know what is going on or even qualify you as assuming you know how I or any of us feel! I looked at her and said nothing. I knew in MY heart how bad I was hurting and I CAN NOT even begin to image her pain. I took my eyes off of the photo of her husband and the father of their children, I wanted to cry but I was the one there to be supportive. After that meeting I went to my supervisor and told her what took place. She told me five other caseworkers expressed the same story. The FDNY counseling unit and the NYPD Staten Island Special Unit Dept., made arrangements for the eight of us to go down to ground zero inside the perimeters because they also agreed that those of us working so closely to the FDNY and the NYPD families should have an understanding or at least have a feeling of what the atmosphere is like. So four different trips had been set up so we could walk the grounds, I will never forget the feelings that took place inside of me, my knees became weak as I stood at the platform that was built for the families to come and view the recovery efforts. The Lieutenant motioned for us to follow and we began to walk the grounds as they pointed out the what buildings once stood there. The workers at the site were so nice as we passed by and some would just nod and say thank you. Others would be kneeling on the ground or sitting in chairs receiving drinks or having their eyes washed out or just taking a moment to reflect. The blank stares at the site told that persons emotional state at that moment. The sounds of heavy machinery as they worked non stop, even the sounds of water as firemen hosed down hot spots. The flags flew over this trailer office, on top an American flag the United Mohawk Steelworkers Association flag and the United States Marines flag, flew over head. I stood there in a silent shock the sun was very bright the rays produced a rainbow from the water, cranes and the flags floating in the wind gave off a vision that I will not ever forget. The eight of us caseworkers had also been given special permission to take photos if we wanted. I was in the last group that went to the site and I had asked the others if they took photos and they said yes, they were really encourage to take the shots so we could take those memories back to our communities and let people be reminded so they will never forget what took place that awful day. I did take photos as the group I was with was escorted through the site. Some of the photos I have taken takes my breathe away and I get a knot inside. That next day when I had an appointment and the family member asked if I had been down inside the site I answered yes and this seemed to be a comfort to those family members, because I was connected to the reality of this event. It did change my life, not so much outwardly but internally. The stories I was told in detail by family members and by survivors I will never forget, it is now apart of my life. Witnessing first hand the fear, the sadness, the state of shock and the feelings of being lost. I lived those moments in time with all the people I sat with and listened to them and did what I could to assist them, which in the grand scheme of things did not seem like much.

Life Changed:I have been reminded of how great our nation is. I feel closer to family and friends. When I go out on disaster assignments with the American Red Cross I really get to know people that I work with, and I try to enjoy my life and the surroundings no matter what the situation. When I see a flag my heart races, and hearing bag pipes brings tears to my eyes. (A year before Sept.11 I was at a large event and before it started the National Anthem was played and VERY few people stood, listened, stopped talked or walking, it was if most all the people could have cared less. This bothered me so much and I kept commenting about it to family and friends and it upset them to. Now the pride people take in the USA is great, it is just to bad this happened to bring people back to the respect of our great nation).

Should be remembered:The courage and valor. People seem to think to much is put on the firefighters, but poeple also forget that they made a choice to go in and many had a feeling because the called and left messages with loved ones. Yes it was thier jobs but they could have choice NOT to go into those buildings ... COURAGE and VALOR

Flag:Yes, Yes so many people disagree on many things but now all Americans stand united behind the American Flag.

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