Volunteers line up for a dangerous job
For tasks large and small, no shortage of offers to help
Related: Blood Donation Centers, Relief Funds & Support
By Carolyn Colletti, Boston.com Staff, 09/14/01 (updated)
It is dirty, dangerous and emotionally devastating work.
And yet there is no shortage of volunteers waiting to help clear away the mountains of debris left by the destruction of New York's World Trade Center complex.
"When you see the actual number of people who volunteer, who are willing to open their hearts and make a difference, it's just so great," said Vashon Beatty, a staffer at New York State's disaster response hotline. The hotline (1-800-801-8092) has been set up to provide information on relief efforts in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers and several nearby buildings.
Many of the calls are from people who want to help at the scene of the tragedy, where the search goes on for victims buried in the tons of twisted steel and shattered concrete and glass. Although none but authorized personnel are permitted near the scene right now, callers to the hotline are being asked to leave their names and phone numbers so they can be contacted if and when the time comes to enlist additional help.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is compiling a similar list. The number is 1-800-293-4031.
Young people want to get involved
In Boston, where dozens of funds have been set up to collect supplies and cash donations, the local Girl Scouts council is gearing up to play a supporting role.
"Young people as well as adults want to find a way to lend support and let others know that they're concerned," said Debbie Deacetis, Associate Director of the Patriots' Trail Council, Girl Scouts of the USA. "They want to do something. They want to get involved."
The local council, in coordination with the national organization and other local troops around the country, is drawing up plans in which Girl Scouts would help pack donated food and clothing for shipment to the disaster scene, for example, or help register volunteers arriving at area blood donation centers.
Girl Scouts of the USA is also providing advice for parents and other adult caretakers unsure of how to talk with children about the tragedy. Information is available online at www.gsusa.org.
The next level of caring
Around the country, ordinary people are responding to an extraordinary tragedy by looking for ways to contribute to relief and recovery efforts.
"This is one of those times when all of us go to that next level of caring and giving," said Patricia Brandes, Chief Operating Officer of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay.
The local United Way chapter is serving as a clearinghouse for information on how help in response to Tuesday's attack on U.S. sites.
Blood donation centers nationwide report a massive response to the Red Cross' appeal for donors, so much so that authorities are now asking volunteers to wait at least until next week to donate.
"The need for blood will be as great two to three months from now as it will be tomorrow," Brandes said. She urges those considering donating blood this week to wait. Many blood supply centers have run out of the plastic bags they need to store donations, Brandes said.
Relief funds set up
There is a critical need for cash and materials as well. The attacks have left much of lower Manhattan in ruin, and the cost of rescuing and recovering victims and cleaning up the damage is expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
To assist in the effort, the United Way in coordination with its local chapters has established a relief fund, called "The September 11th Fund." Contributions to the fund may be made online. The Boston-area chapter's Website, www.uwmb.org, features information and a link to the new fund's main page, which is hosted by the New York City chapter at www.uwnyc.org.
All money donated to this fund will go directly to victims of the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., Brandes said. Contributors can designate their contributions for use specifically in New York or Washington, or for general use in areas directly affected by the attacks.
In addition, the U.S. Salvation Army is is seeking donations of canned goods, clean clothing, and medical supplies such as bandages. A list of sites where donors can drop off materials is available at the local United Way site at www.uwmb.org/sept11/food.htm.
At banks, competition is on hold
Three local banks, Citizens, Sovereign and Fleet, have announced they will soon begin accepting donations for the American Red Cross Local Disaster Relief Fund.
"It really represents a coming together in a time of tragedy", said Citizens spokesman Blake Jordan.
The banks will accept donations at all their branches, where donor forms will be availble to help track donations and speed the money to where it is needed.
Donations may also be sent to the American Red Cross Relief Fund, in care of:
c/o Citizens Bank
28 State Street
Boston, MA 02109
c/o Sovereign Bank
P.O. Box 841003
Boston, MA 02125
FleetBank could not immediately provide mailing information.
The American Red Cross is also accepting online donations at its Website, www.redcross.org/.
Firefighters, police among the victims
As of Thursday morning, the official death toll in the tragedy was fewer than 100 people, said New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, although the final number is expected to be in the thousands.
Among the victims in New York are an unknown number of firefighters and police officers, members of a tight-knit community that extends beyond any one city or town. When six Worcester firefighters died battling a blaze in an abandoned warehouse in December of 1999, comrades from across the country paid their respects and the city mobilized a relief fund in support of the victims' families.
On Wednesday, Worcester firefighters were on standby to assist with rescue and recovery efforts in New York City. As for future efforts on behalf of fallen and injured firefighters and their families, "We will support them in any way we can," said Frank Raffa, President of Worcester Firefighter's Local 1009.
A spokesman for the Boston Fire Dept. said several department officials have gone to New York, looking for ways to help out. But the immediate focus is on rescue efforts, he said, and no decisions on a relief fund or some other form of assistance have been made.
Similarly, the Boston Firefighter's Local 718 is still exploring ways to provide support to fallen comrades. However the union had scheduled a blood drive for Wednesday at its Dorchester office, unrelated to the apparent terrorist attack, and a spokeswoman said the response was nearly overwhelming, with a long line of volunteers extending from the front door, waiting to contribute.
Elsewhere, responses to the attack range from the personal to the highly public.
The Website for the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, www.mit.edu, on Wednesday featured an image of a single candle burning against a black background. The school is also organizing a blood drive on campus.
Others simply sought to express their sorrow and outrage.
In New Hampshire, outside the statehouse in Concord, two Plymouth State College students hung a banner denouncing the attacks. The banner, which was hung from the granite columns in front of the building, said: "Live Free or Die Against Terrorism. God Bless America."
Joe Amara and Rick Alpers bought a sheet at a department store Tuesday morning and brought it to the Statehouse, where they made their banner.
Amaram said they wanted to show their prayers and thoughts are with the families hurt by the attack and to wake up the state and country to the problem of terrorism.
(Material from Boston.com's wire services was used in this report.)
Carolyn Colletti can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org