Anne Ford 2016-12-28 04:32:16
ALMOST AS SOON AS THE HORRIFIC ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, TOOK PLACE, LIONS STEPPED UP TO HELP. THEN AND FOR YEARS AFTERWARD, CLUBS AND DISTRICTS OFFERED THEIR DONATIONS, RESOURCES, IDEAS, AND TIME TO EASE THE BURDEN BORNE BY VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES. On the morning of 9/11, Lion Al Brandel, who would be elected international president in seven years, was at his job as a missing-persons detective for the Nassau County Police Department, just outside New York City. BRANDEL: I heard the news on the radio about the plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I turned on the TV, and we saw the other plane crash into the other tower. Then we knew we were in trouble. We figured that some of the survivors would be transferred to a hospital nearby. So I and another detective went there and told ’em we’d be available when survivors started coming in. Then we found out: There weren’t any survivors coming in. I remember going to the train station that night and looking at cars in the parking lot and figuring out that those were probably cars of people who were not coming home. Then-District Governor Glenn Ryburn, a retired Army colonel, was driving to the Pentagon for a meeting that morning. RYBURN: I was coming into the Pentagon parking lot when the plane hit the building. I had to make a left turn to get in, and as soon as I made that turn, I could see the smoke, black smoke. And then my cell phone started ringing: “Where are you? Where are you?” I spent 30 years in the Army, and I went through a lot of disasters during the Vietnam War. But I will tell you that I had never been through a disaster like this. The parking lots of the Pentagon are surrounded by an interstate highway, and everything just came to a halt. Lion leaders, including Past International Director (PID) Robert Klein, quickly marshaled their resources as best they could to address the calamity. KLEIN: As fast as I possibly could, I contacted Peter Lynch, manager of the humanitarian grants department at LCIF, and I said, “I think we need some money.” Peter said, “I’ve beaten you. I’ve already called the President [Dr. Jean Behar], and we’re setting up a program.” LYNCH: The first thing we did, we gave the Lions in the affected districts $10,000 disaster grants to help provide initial relief. Almost simultaneously, we appealed to Lions around the world to contribute to a disaster relief fund. We knew that Lions everywhere would want to support the Lions of the East Coast. And we designated $100,000 as seed money for the fund. Past International President Al Brandel of New York, a retired detective, and his wife, Dr. Maureen Murphy, visit the National September 11 Memorial in New York. That 9/11 Disaster Emergency Fund would eventually swell to $3.2 million as donations from clubs around the world poured in. PID Klein was appointed fund administrator as well as chair of the 9/11 Central Steering Committee. Meanwhile, on Sept. 13, Lions from Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn met with Brandel and his wife, Lion Dr. Maureen Murphy, to discuss immediate actions that could be taken. BRANDEL: We knew that LCIF would come up with some money, but there was a need for us to personally respond and come up with some hands-on projects. For example, one of our Lions was very familiar with Mayor Giuliani, and we heard that they were asking for socks and sweatshirts, so we organized that. One day they needed food down at Ground Zero, so we got hot dogs for first responders. MURPHY: Then a few days after 9/11, one of the local volunteer fire departments was bringing supplies to Ground Zero, and I went with them, along with several other people from my hospital. I’m an anesthesiologist. We checked in at the first-aid station that was set up in the firehouse right across from the debris pile where the towers fell. I rendered literally no medical care because there were no survivors; there were only victims. At one point I walked away from the area with two nurses, thinking, “What am I doing here?” Then we saw these two guys putting together wheelbarrows. So we jumped in and started to help them. We were there the whole night, putting wheelbarrows together so they could be used to help remove debris. It was surreal. At the same time, the Lions of Virginia and Maryland worked to provide rescue gear, food and supplies to Pentagon recovery teams, with the help of a grant from LCIF. RYBURN: At the time, I was the district governor for 24 A, which included the Pentagon. We called LCIF and got $10,000 really quickly, which helped pay for things like gloves, water, bandages, masks, batteries, medical equipment. We contacted the Salvation Army, which had access to the Pentagon, and they delivered those supplies for us. That $10,000 also helped people who lost their jobs, because so many things in and around D.C. closed, like the airport. We interviewed people who couldn’t pay their rent or mortgage or phone bills or electric bills, and we paid those for them on a onetime basis. At a special Council of Governors meeting, New York’s Multiple District 20 Steering Committee was created to coordinate relief efforts. Then-Council Chair John Wargo of New York was appointed to head it. WARGO: Initially, we were partnering with some other organizations to screen applicants for nonrecurring financial assistance. That didn’t turn out to be the majority of our effort. The majority was providing support in terms of supplies for the relief workers and then later for the people who were working at the Fresh Kills sorting ground on Staten Island, where they brought all the debris from the World Trade Center. We also connected with a warehouse six or eight blocks from Ground Zero, where relief workers went if they needed something. Lions, along with other groups, helped man that warehouse. It was very satisfying, because it was something hands-on to do. You could see the faces of the relief workers and hear some of their stories. BRANDEL: We also had several shipping containers made into shelters, with doors and windows and a/c units and heaters, and we put the Lions logo on them and had them brought down to Ground Zero. We put tables and coffee pots in there, so if, say, the firefighters wanted to have a cup of coffee and take their shoes off, they could. What was probably more important than anything else was just looking in their faces and saying, “It’s OK; we’re here for you.” Maybe they just needed somebody to talk to after their day’s work, before they went home. It was cathartic, for them and for us. Because the planes that struck the World Trade Center took off from Boston, many Massachusettsans were affected by the tragedy. Past International Director Chuck Kostro oversaw MD 33’s efforts, which included tapping the Lions network to provide emotional and practical support to families. KOSTRO: I got a call from a woman whose husband was killed in 9/11. She asked if someone from Lions could help her with this garden her husband had, to show her how to take care of it, because that was her link to her husband. We put her in touch with a local farmer who happened to be a Lion. He showed her everything to do, and he said he was on call for whatever she needed. I think he was thrilled to be able to help out. And then there was a grandfather whose granddaughter was one of the victims. Her friend had established a website about her, and he didn’t know how to access it, so a Lion showed him what to do. Afterward, he had tears in his eyes, and the Lion had tears in his eyes. The families here, I don’t think they’ve ever forgotten what the Lions did to help them. Other Lions efforts included providing grants to nonprofit organizations, providing community service awards, and funding a series of bereavement camps and retreats for families of 9/11 victims. The camps ran for several years after 9/11. KOSTRO: At the first camp we had, it was just before Halloween, and one of the children’s activities was painting pumpkins. This one little girl painted two towers on her pumpkin, with things flying out of the towers. A therapist asked what those things were, and she said they were body parts. The therapist very nicely took a paintbrush and put wings on the body parts and said, “These are now angels.” And that little girl smiled. I don’t know if you could put a price on that. RYBURN: At those camps, we watched kids grow up. We saw families who had lost a spouse, and the other spouse would bring their kids. The next year they’d bring the kids back, and the baby was now walking. The third year, they were really running around. There was a man who had lost his wife, and he had a couple kids. The lady who had children came, and they met. When they came back the third year, they were married. Nancy Yambem’s husband, Jupiter, was killed in the World Trade Center attacks. She and her son, Santi, attended weeklong healing camps in Maine, sponsored by the Lions, from 2002 to 2005. NANCY YAMBEM: When 9/11 happened, my husband and I had been together almost 20 years. It was horrific to lose him. There was a lot of posttraumatic stress that went on afterward, as well as grief and shock. My son was five years old at the time. The first year after 9/11 was just holding it together, keeping my son in school, keeping myself sane, trying to get enough sleep. We live in a small town where there are very, very few 9/11 families. People would point me out on the street. I’d be in Shop- Rite, and the person behind the deli would say to her co-worker, “That’s the woman who lost her husband.” My son was very young, but he felt the same thing—being singled out. He didn’t want to be different. He wanted to be normal, and he wasn’t anymore. People didn’t know what to say or what to do or how to support us. It’s been 15 years since 9/11, but its legacy has changed the United States—and the Lions—forever. Going to camp was a respite from that. I felt so much comfort being with other families who were going through the same experiences. Talking about what we’d been through, letting our kids have fun—it was a real help. The kids just got to swim and play games and have silly contests and not be the focus of attention for being different. The adults, we also did fun and silly things, but two times a day we could talk about what we were going through. Who else could you talk to about it, but people who really, really understood? The staff at that camp was phenomenal. There were some people from Lions in the background there, serving the meals. They would quietly serve the meals and just laugh with us and encourage us. I’m so grateful. It’s been 15 years since 9/11, but its legacy has changed the United States—and the Lions— forever. BRANDEL: The Lions had never had to respond to something like 9/11 before. Certainly never, when I became a Lion in 1975, did I think I would serve people at the site of a terrorist crime scene. This was not a pancake breakfast, a blood drive or supporting a Little League team or a Boy Scout troop. This was the first time we knew we could organize a big relief project. When other catastrophes happened, like Hurricane Katrina or Sandy Hook or tornadoes in the Midwest, we got phone calls from people, asking, “How do we organize ourselves? How do we get started?” We had to learn new ways to serve, and that’s what we did with 9/11. It’s a different world, and we have to be a different organization.
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