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17 Years Later: Remembering September 11th

15 Years later: Remembering September 11th

*Each of us may experience a range of emotions as we remember the September 11th terrorist attacks and ways to cope with our reactions. Please be aware that this article may evoke memories and intensify your reactions.

September 11, 2018
By Dana Rosenwasser

A short 15-minute walk from Safe Horizon’s administrative headquarters in downtown Manhattan is one of the locations where a national tragedy occurred 17 years ago. We will never forget the catastrophic impact the September 11th attacks had, not only on the immediate and surrounding area but on the entire country. We will also never forget the role our dedicated staff played in making a difference in the lives of thousands of people directly and indirectly affected by the attacks.

As an agency that specializes in providing compassionate support and practical resources to those affected by violence and abuse, we are often called upon by community and government leaders to lend these expert services in response to traumatic events. The September 11th terrorist attacks exemplified such a time.

Called Upon By Community Leaders

To assist the thousands of people who needed help in the aftermath of the attacks, many organizations and service providers were required to mobilize and respond. Safe Horizon did just that and assumed a lead role in coordinating New York City’s relief effort and in providing direct services to victims. We were able to assist people who were injured or displaced, those who lost loved ones, those who were traumatized and those who were economically impacted. Through partnerships with the September 11th Fund, the 9/11 United Services Group, and Project Liberty, we acted as a conduit; distributing funds and emergency services that were critically needed.

With the financial assistance distributed by Safe Horizon, people like Ramon and Lillian, an elderly couple from the Bronx, were able to recover without worry. Ramon and Lillian worked as elevator operators in the World Trade Center and suffered excruciating physical injuries during the attacks. Because of their serious injuries, they both spent most of their time in hospitals, doctor’s office, and physical therapy instead of with each other. Safe Horizon helped Ramon and Lillian reclaim lost wages and cover the cost of their medical bills.

Helping Those Affected Heal

Our hotline immediately became a central resource for anyone seeking information relating to September 11th services. We developed a comprehensive Resource Referral Guide that was disseminated broadly so clients and service providers knew where to find specific types of help. We joined the City in staffing the Center at the Lexington Avenue Armory to serve as a meeting place for people looking for information and services. We were one of the first organizations to offer crisis counseling and support to people coming to the Armory searching for loved ones, who were evacuated from their buildings or who lost their job. Our community trauma response team was activated and provided hundreds of forums throughout the five boroughs for groups of individuals to come together and discuss their reactions, learn strategies for managing those reactions and learn how to access additional resources and help. We provided immediate financial assistance to victims through the Crime Victim’s Board. Many survivors who were anxious about seeking services at a City-sponsored location or who were traumatized by returning to Manhattan accessed help at our Community Program Offices. Two of the many people who sought help and began healing at our Community Program Offices are Carlos and Franklin, who were inseparable co-workers.

Carlos and Franklin were shoe-shiners at the Twin Towers. They were so distraught that neither could leave their home for months. Carlos was too upset to open up about his feelings until he arrived at the Disaster Relief Assistance Center. After Carlos spoke with a Safe Horizon counselor, he started to work with one of our caring social workers. After the first few weeks, Carlos spoke about his healing process with Franklin, who then also decided to talk to someone. We were able to provide both Carlos and Franklin the supportive services they needed to help them cope and begin to move forward with their lives.

Our Everlasting Impact

Carlos, Franklin, Ramon and Lillian are only some of the many people affected by the tragedy of the attacks we were able to assist. In fact, during the four years following the September 11th attacks, we distributed more than $250 million in emergency financial relief from the September 11th Fund, and touched the lives of over 55, 000 individuals and companies affected.

As an agency, we learned a great deal from providing these services in a time of crisis. In 2014, we were called upon to provide emergency assistance following a tragic explosion of a residential building in East Harlem. Even though this more recent tragic event was not near the magnitude of the September 11th attacks, it was largely due to the lessons learned more than a decade earlier that we were able to able to mobilize and respond with help when people needed it.

As we look back on the September 11th attacks 17 years later, we are proud to have been part of relief efforts along with many other organizations. When such an event of this magnitude occurs, it takes more than one organization to be able to help all those affected. Many agencies, organizations and individual responders helped our fellow New Yorkers in a time of crisis and we appreciate the opportunity to have been part of the effort.

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