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After crash, kids find 'CAIR'

BY HEATHER MOYER | ROCKAWAY, NY | November 15, 2001


"We need to be there for the kids."

—Jean Myers


In the wake of Monday's plane crash, what do kids need most? A place where they can just be kids, said Jean Myers, leader of a trained volunteer team that's providing just that for children of families affected by the tragedy.

A colorful play area complete with toys and cribs gives children an outlet while their parents cope with the aftermath. While a complex investigation goes on around them, this is about simple loving care, or CAIR (Childcare in Aviation Incident Response).

Trained through the Church of the Brethren, CAIR volunteers are from a variety of faiths. Myers said CAIR is not there for preaching or prescribing medicine, but rather just "to be a place where kids can just be kids."

"We provide a safe, secure area for the children in the family assistance center while their parents are getting help," she said. "Parents can bring their kids to us and we have a play area, cribs, and all kinds of things for kids to do.

"We aren't there to push curriculum or counseling," she added. "We let the kids talk to us about how they feel when and if they want to, but more important is letting them be kids and letting them just get away from the grief and sadness for a while."

At least 260 people died after the airliner crashed into the Rockaway area of Queens on Monday. CAIR teams were called in through an agreement with the American Red Cross.

For Myers, caring for kids in the wake of disaster is more than a hobby -- it's a calling. "I was called to do this type of thing," she said. "Sure, you have your stressful times and long hours, but it's so rewarding -- I can't even describe how rewarding it is. We need to be there for the kids."

Myers said she is proud to be a grandmother and that working with children is something she's done all her life -- whether it be teaching Sunday school or helping out in the church nursery.

Myers said the volunteers will probably be caring for children affected by the crash for up to 10 days. "Every disaster is different, though," she said. "We'll be here as long as we're needed."

Some volunteers are returning to the plane crash site only days after responding to the Sept. 11 attacks, when almost 100 volunteers provided several weeks of child care for more than 2,000 children at two family assistance centers.

CAIR was established in the late 1990s to help with childcare after incidents such as Monday's.


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