Tag Archives: 9/11

When the unspeakable happened on September 11th, 2001, the Red Cross was there in the immediate aftermath, and the years to follow. Immediately, the Red Cross:

  • Activated 6,000 Red Cross volunteers
  • Opened 13 Red Cross shelter
  • Sent Disaster Mental Health workers to shelters, crash sites, airports and hospitals
  • Set up a mental health hotline
  • Opened Respite Centers for firefighters, police officers, port authority workers and others
  • Received 1 million calls on the Blood Donation line (the previous record in one day was 3,000 calls)
  • Every chapter in the nation supported stranded passengers at airports as air space was shut down
  • Launched the Family Registration Web, a predecessor to today’s
  • Sent teams of Red Cross workers door-to-door in the Restricted Zone for families who had chosen to stay
  • After one year, the Red Cross had served 14 million meals for disaster workers and victims, mental health services for more than 237,000 people, and health services for 131,000 people.
  • And much  more.

The Greater New York Red Cross has put together a YouTube playlist of Red Crossers remembering that day, including this video about all the spontaneous volunteers who showed up to help out where they could:

Remembering the Red Cross Response to 9/11


This Sunday, my beloved Philadelphia Eagles play the Denver Broncos. And believe it not, that has created somewhat of a quandary for me. Normally, it’s a no-brainer as to where my loyalties would lie. I’m a lifelong Eagles fan. (It took years of therapy to make that admission BTW.) But being in the disaster business, and working for the Red Cross in particular, it’s not that cut and dry — to the point where I’m actually asking myself, what should my rooting interest be?

I have nothing against the Broncos. I really like Peyton Manning and I like seeing him succeed. Colorado is beautiful. I don’t get to visit it to go skiing nearly enough.  I also have some wonderful Red Cross colleagues in Colorado. But this is the Eagles and if they have any hope of making the playoffs, they need to pull off an upset. So here’s my quandary.

Anyone who has been keeping up with the news, knows Denver and the state of Colorado have been through a lot this summer (and the last year for that matter.) (KUSA-TV story via USA Today). The past few weeks I’ve seen incredible footage of homes being wiped away by flooding, all on the heels of terrible wildfires the past two summers. I’ve read and heard the stories of families who lost their homes to wildfires last summer, just to see them get washed away by flooding this summer. My colleagues in Colorado have friends and neighbors who were directly affected. My heart breaks for the thousands of people who must start over.

Now I realize a football game won’t fix any of that. I realize that it is, in fact, just a game. But history has shown us that sports can play a big role in healing cities and communities affected by tragedy. Think of the impact sports had on New York City (and the country) after 9/11. Who wasn’t pulling for the Yankees in that World Series? Just a few short years after Katrina, no one could deny the positive impact the Saints winning the Super Bowl had on the city’s psyche and economy. After Sandy, the Giants helped NY and NJ mentally recover, at least for a few hours every week. Everyone was a Red Sox and Bruins fan in the weeks following the Boston Marathon bombing. Rooting against those teams was almost sacrilege.

Which brings me back to this Sunday’s Eagles game against the Broncos. If the Eagles were playing the Cowboys, I admit, it may be a different story. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to root for the Cowboys, no matter the circumstance. That’s just a fact of life of someone from Philadelphia. But Denver is a different story.


So what should I do? Let my lifelong love of the Eagles trump my genuine wish for the Broncos, in a small way, help the people of Denver feel better? Or toss my lifelong loyalty aside, this once, and root for a Broncos victory?

Ultimately, I turned to my Red Cross colleagues in Colorado for the answer. I saw through their tweets, photos, videos, and stories that demonstrated very clearly that the people of Colorado “got this.” With the help of agencies like the Red Cross and their fellow citizens, Coloradans are showing an unbelievable and inspiring resilience. Their ability to absorb what has happened and vow to overcome it, with no complaint, is remarkable.

Just like folks in New York, New Orleans, and Boston, Coloradans showed me that they don’t need me to root for their football team in order to feel loved and supported. Adversity brings out the best in us. It  brings out our selflessness. It brings out our love. It brings out our humanity. Those qualities make us winners and Colorado has plenty of all of them.

Go Eagles.

I was deployed, after working for the Red Cross for barely a year, to the World Trade Center operation around the middle of October to work in Logistics.  The SEPA chapter sent so many volunteers and employees I can’t recall, plus its entire crew of Americorps members who had just started their term with us.  Meanwhile at our own chapter office, we had dozens of volunteers working every day running phone banks because the New York chapter was overwhelmed with call volume.

It was my first time travelling for a large national operation, and from the first day it was an absolute blur of activity.  There was no down time to relax and get comfortable, with my bag still on my shoulder I was whisked to a conference room in the Brooklyn HQ for an orientation, then brought to the logistics area and assigned my task:  Transportation.

The Red Cross had well over five hundred vehicles assigned to a dozen or more locations on the job from rentals to chapter vehicles to personal vehicles.  My job was to track every one of them, where they were and their maintenance status and rental contracts and who had the keys and where they were parked and how many new, mysterious scratches there were today.  I was there for three weeks and by the beginning of November there were still vehicles showing up every day that had been there since the beginning without our knowledge.  It was an amazing lesson in the inherent chaos of disaster work.

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Some of the chaos happened because when the towers fell, volunteers began driving from just about anywhere within driving distance to NYC.  They didn’t wait until they were called, they didn’t fill out deployment paperwork.  They just hopped in their chapter ERVs (Emergncy Response Vehicle, big red truck) and other chapter response vehicles (SUVs, vans) or even their own cars.  The Red Cross also rented vehicles like passenger vans, delivery trucks and sedans for transporting supplies, shuttling workers to and from Ground Zero or to attend meetings with local officials.

Manhattan rush hour traffic is a nightmare in the best of circumstances, now imagine dozens of city blocks restricted, emergency vehicles parked in creative places and an influx of tourists like never before.  The number of minor collisions alone was enough to keep me at my desk for hours every day, add to that lost keys, lost contracts and even lost vehicles!  The days flew by, the supervisor who trained me left the scene three days after I got there which made me the “expert”, but by the end of my three week term I wished I could have signed on for another three weeks.

On a personal level, it was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences I’ve ever had.  The work was constant and challenging with only general guidelines on how to solve such unpredictable problems that arose, which encouraged and necessitated creativity and initiative.  Fortunately we found ourselves well-staffed so some of my expected 12-hour days were more like 9 hours which gave me a chance to explore Manhattan for the first time.  I could go on and on, so many stories and experiences, it definitely changed the way I saw the work of the American Red Cross.

– Sean McGarry
is still with the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania as a Disaster Services Specialist

On September 11, 2001 I was attending a client casework class at the SEPA chapter headquarters. The manager of preparedness came down to the class and informed me that an accident had occurred at the World Trade Center. Upon arriving on the bridge (SEPA Chapter’s emergency communications center) I saw the building that had been hit by an airplane. I told everyone that this was an attack not an accident. I based this upon the fact that the building had been hit once prior by terrorist as a symbol of American capitalism and decadence.  Probably no later than a half an hour the other building was attacked by the jet airliner.

As a retired soldier, the attack upon the Pentagon was extremely poignant to me due to the fact I had worked in the building during my military career. This attack for me confirmed totally that this was a coordinated effort against our country.

All the phone lines in the chapter began ringing as soon as these events occurred. Many individuals from Bucks County worked in the facilities and many family members were trying to make contact.  Additionally, all phone lines were overwhelmed and out of service in the New York area of operations.

At that time, I was a DAT (Disaster Action Team) leader. The director of emergency services, assistant director of emergency services and Chapter leadership wanted to be prepared for anything here at headquarters, so I was directed to begin the process of preparing the building from a possible follow-up attack. We took the vehicles present at the chapter and created a ring around the building to stop the possibilities of a vehicle type of attack. The entrance of the driveway was blocked and a guard was present manning the entrance into the parking lot.

The most important thing that came out of this for me was the fact that everybody wanted to provide some type of service at this time to the Red Cross and country. Every agency or organization offered some type of assistance to the SEPA chapter. Every American had been touched by this event and the best that we could do arose from us on this day.

– Terry Johnson
is still an employee at the American Red Cross of SEPA
he’s now the Manager of Disaster Services

I was home that day watching morning TV news and I saw the whole thing.  I didn’t travel up to the site until probably the first week of November because I waited until the Client Casework Supervisor Course was given .  Finally I arrived in New York and after going to chapter headquarters just over the bridge in Brooklyn, I received an assignment very close to the Trade Center remains.  Chicken hearted as I was then, I chose not to see the site when offered the opportunity.  We worked in the basement of a union hall along with the mass care team.  It was my first deployment as a client casework supervisor so I did not really get to work with many clients, just the problems and the paperwork and approvals.   One man asked for help with securing safety equipment since he was working on “the pile.”   Most of what I did was in support of caseworkers who are called “Service Associates.” The weather was cold in NYC.  One day while outside seeking a lunch spot, I looked up and saw stuff falling from the sky. “Look”, I said, “it’s snowing.”  Someone near who heard my comment said, “That’s not snow; it’s ash from the trade center.”  After a week and a half, our service center was moved up to the telephone company site on Canal Street.  Our clients were people who lived or worked below Canal Street.  Their lives and incomes were also interrupted. I stayed on the job until the day before Thanksgiving.  Thankfully, I went home to my family gathering and no one was missing.
– Carol Barnett
is a long-time SEPA Chapter volunteer who served as a Client Casework Supervisor in Manhattan following the events of 9/11/01

I’m a Jersey girl, grew up in Jersey City with a view of New York City from the park down the street from my family’s home.  Family and friends either helped build, worked at or were part of the rescue and clean-up at the World Trade Center.  I even attended the very first gala in the beautiful Windows of the World.

I was busy packing for my move to Philadelphia from New Hampshire which would take place on September 14th, Friday, but first there was Tuesday. There were lots of phone calls and sadness that Tuesday.  I still was making my move on Friday and I remember the car ride was fast until we reached the Tappan Zee Bridge, then it seemed like time stopped.  Down the Hudson was a dark cloud of smoke just laying over New York.  The scene was chilling and to this day the memory is crystal clear with all the emotions I felt that day.

I remember asking God what can I do.

After getting settled in Philadelphia, I visited  family and friends of those lost or injured.  I then went to a temp work agency seeking employment.  The agent said they had a temporary assignment at the American Red Cross helping with processing after 9/11.  I looked up and said “I got the message” and when I reported for the assignment I told everyone that would listen that I was not leaving at the end of the assignment.

During the days following 9/11, I did more than I could imagine at SEPA Chapter. So much more than answering phones and recording data.  I spent some early mornings collecting money in front of City Hall and I remember the cabbies stopping and donating their tips from the night before.  I went to lunch rooms in office buildings in the counties surrounding Philadelphia to leave materials and collect not only donations but names of new volunteers, (everyone wanted to help in some way). While walking to and from SEPA Chapter wearing Red Cross gear, I remember people in their cars would beep their horns and yell thank you or want to give you a donation. Just seeing my coat was enough.

Now, eleven years later, family and friends are still recovering from the mental and physical scars of that Tuesday.  Me, I’m still at the Red Cross.

-Cathy Castrovilly
is a full time executive assistant to the Chief Development Officer at the American Red Cross of Southeastern PA. She never did leave after her temp position ended.