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Six months later

BY SUSAN KIM | WASHINGTON, DC | March 11, 2002


"Do you currently feel safe in your workplace?"

A draft of a proposed post-9/11 health

survey written for survivors personally impacted by the terrorist

attacks wraps it up with utmost precision.

The survey asks if survivors breathed smoke -- and

what kind -- at the time of the attacks. If they suffered

burns, breathing difficulties, coughing, head aches,

irritated eyes, hearing problems.

And toward the end the survey asks about "stress-related"

injuries. There are questions for people who feel

anxious, depressed, hopeless.

"Do you feel jumpy?"

And: "Do you currently feel safe in your workplace?"

Does anyone, really?

If only it were as easy as checking a box. Six months

after 9/11 -- the disaster that redefined what a

disaster is -- it's still too soon to quantify the state

of recovery.

There are people still wondering how best to help. But

at a recent meeting of New York City's voluntary

agencies, the number-one frustration leaders expressed

was managing volunteers and material donations.

In the weeks following 9/11, New York City was deluged

with truckloads of inappropriate material donations that

ranged from women's underwear to too many booties for

the search-and-rescue dogs.

Ed Jacoby, Jr., director of New York's emergency

management office, described building "a small city" for

the 15,000 volunteers who swarmed into the area.

Just when the message was finally getting out that cash

contributions - not material donations -- would help the most, the

American Red Cross came under highly visible public questioning about

how the organization was spending what it raised in

the wake of 9/11.

Six months after 9/11, the Better Business Bureau's Wise

Giving Alliance has removed its positive evaluation of

the Red Cross from its Web site while it prepares a new

report about Red Cross 9/11-related activities.

Criticism continues to surface about the size of federal and other aid

families of victims will receive. The New York Times

pulled from its Web site last week an editorial cartoon

that depicted some families of the Sept. 11 hijacking

attacks as greedy and insincere. One widow, shown with a

pile of cash in her lap, was saying: "I keep waiting for

Kevin to come home, but I know he never will.

Fortunately, the $3.2 million I collected . . . keeps me warm at night."

Red Cross voluteers -- many of whom spent heartbreaking hours helping people cope with the aftermath of 9/11 -- are now coping with the heartbreak of having their organization publicly criticized with little mention of the positive contributions the Red Cross has made after 9/11 and many other disasters.

The criticism has also been felt by faith-based disaster response

groups -- most with very low overhead and a positive

track record of using funds to directly aid disaster

survivors -- who have had to reassure donors that, yes, they

are spending money responsibly.

At the same time, as in any other disaster, faith-based groups are trying

to concentrate on people who might "fall through the

cracks."

But this isn't any other disaster. As the United

Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) pointed out in a recent

report to contributors, there is no list of people who

do not have the resources or the insurance to recover

from the 9/11 attacks.

Instead a list could include, UMCOR reported, "recent

immigrants, restaurant workers, small-business owners,

and other people who earned their living from tourism,

real estate, or by serving the tens of thousands of

people who used to spend their days in the downtown area

and now work elsewhere."

Also, cab drivers and bellhops who live on tips,

the thousands of people associated with

airlines, and undocumented citizens who are afraid to ask

for help.

And economists acknowledge it's still too soon to see

all the financial effects on businesses and families.

Insurers have stated they cannot afford to continue to

provide coverage for terrorism-related losses. That

means future terrorist attacks could dramatically

increase direct losses to businesses and employees.

Unfortunately, more attacks could happen. As the United

States General Accounting Office puts it, the nation now

faces increasingly diverse threats that range from

"cyber attacks on critical infrastructure to terrorist

incidents involving weapons of mass destruction or

infectious diseases."

In the midst of uncertainty, faith-based response groups

have been using monetary donations to try to offer

people something both priceless and intangible: hope.

Church World Service calls it "spiritual care." Within

hours after the 9/11 attacks, leaders from CWS and its

member denominations pulled together to talk about how

to respond to an incident that left a whole nation

reeling.

Six months later, CWS and its member denominations are

building a national network of trained spiritual

caregivers. If a similar event occurs again, they will be prepared

to act.

CWS continues to offer interfaith spiritual care

training programs, and is also involved in a joint

effort with Eastern Mennonite University offering

Seminars on Trauma Awareness and Recovery (STAR). The

focus of STAR training is to equip religious leaders in

New York, Washington, and other cities with new tools to

deal with the ongoing trauma caused by 9/11.

For six months, other denominational disaster response

groups have quietly brought hope to people affected by

9/11 - directly or indirectly. Their efforts are simple,

brave, and creative: cleaning Manhattan apartments,

distributing food to families in Afghanistan, listening

to survivors tell their stories, sending thank-you notes

from children to weary responders, holding prayer vigils

for military families.

These groups are caring for 9/11 survivors while

continuing their response ministries elsewhere. Faith-

based disaster response groups helping survivors of

other disasters -- flooding in Houston, TX from last

year's Tropical Storm Allison, and survivors of extensive flooding in

WV -- are having trouble raising money and report that their clients

feel

forgotten.

Despite all of these concerns, recovery happens every day in small

ways. But in many ways the effects -- like the bodies of two police

officers pulled from the World Trade Center earlier this month -- are

still being unearthed.

The survey also asks: "Since the attack have you had

disturbing memories?"

Who hasn't?


Related Topics:

Terrorism wave proves challenging

Counseling, prayers offered in bombing wake

Churches respond to Boston bombings


More links on Terrorism

More links on September 11 2001

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