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NY confronts 'emotional rubble'

BY HEATHER MOYER | NEW YORK | October 5, 2001

More than 122,773 tons of

debris have been removed from the World Trade Center

site, but the emotional rubble is still growing.

The pain being experienced is within individuals who

have lost loved ones, and within the collective

community that has lost thousands of residents, its

signature landmark, and its sense of security.

No wonder response groups are focusing on long-term

mental health issues as they help survivors recover.

Within hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, Church World

Service (CWS) brought together its trained volunteers as

well as mental health specialists to coordinate local

and national response to the tragedy that changed the


CWS Disaster Response Facilitator (DRF) Joann Hale said

the experience has affected her in ways she could never

have imagined. "I had no idea what to expect when I got

here," she said. "But just walking out in the streets,

people have seen my CWS logo and I've had strangers just

come up to me and just start crying. It's also amazing

to look into the eyes of the rescuers who had been

searching for survivors."

Her fellow CWS DRF, Charlie Moeller, went to the World

Trade Center site to talk to local firefighters. "I went

to a few fire houses, and I really feel for the

firefighters," he said. "I worry for them because I

think it's toughest for them - they have to work in such

a horrifying place (ground zero). If there's a hell on

earth, it's there."

Yet both Hale and Moeller said they have witnessed hope

creeping back into New York City. "The aftereffects are

unbelievable, but there are still so many good things

happening," Hale said.

"Together we have accomplished many things in these past

few weeks. We started an inter-religious group in New

York City. We have a pastoral training program. We have

a database of grief and pastoral counselors to use

across the country. We have been a partner in the

Disaster Child Care program.

"We identified a Mexican worker community that will now

receive aid. We have worked with the New York City

Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) to

develop a program for long term recovery. We have sent

humanitarian aid to Afghani refugees."

But most of all, Hale said, the faith community has

prayed. "Through our (CWS) partners we have sent prayers

to all the victims, survivors, volunteers, recovery

workers, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

employees, and all others involved in the efforts,

asking for strength and guidance."

A new inter-religious task force in New York City is

identifying its mission, goals, and structure, and Hale

said the formation of the group has been one of the

biggest accomplishments she's seen so far in her work in

the city.

The inter-religious organization will help vulnerable

people, Hale said, and already faith-based groups have

helped nearly 600 Mexican workers and their families who

were affected by the tragedies. She said many people who

worked for the World Trade Center or other nearby

restaurants and stores have not asked for help even

though their families need it.

The faith community worked with the American Red Cross

to set up a service center specifically for Mexican

workers who lost their jobs. Together the agencies

worked and were able to help the families receive rent

and food vouchers as well as counseling and other


"This made me so happy, knowing that people who were

desperate for help got what they needed," said Hale.

But Hale knows that there are many others in need. She

said her team is continuing to focus on finding and

helping them. "Even with considerable money and

benefits, there will be people and communities that will

fall between the cracks," said Hale.

Moeller, who has responded to disasters for more than a

decade, added that this disaster is different. "There

are so many people involved in New York City and we're

trying to facilitate the work and get the local groups

to facilitate the process."

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