From September 2013 Tips and Tales Shared by Dot Hollandsworth

Jim and I were Red Cross disaster volunteers for several years before coming to Sunnyside in 2002. When 9/11 occurred, we volunteered for one last time and before we knew it, we were on our way to New York City.

We checked into our hotel assigned to us and then made our way to our place of work, which was at Pier 94 in Manhattan, a huge warehouse which then became the Family Assistance Center (FAC) for numerous other agencies. The Red Cross was by far the largest agency represented.

For those three weeks we were there, Jim and I interviewed those who had lost loved ones on 9/11. Besides taking care of their immediate emergency needs, we started the process for each family or person to receive a much larger gift called the Special Gift that would cover their financial obligations for three months. Sometime later, we were pleased to know that the Red Cross agreed to release the entire amount of the Liberty Fund given so generously by the American people. Meeting and working with these bereaved families, hearing their stories, was truly a privilege.

I remember Ramona living in New York who wanted to return to Guatemala with her children to have a memorial service for her husband there. I helped her make the necessary arrangements to do so. Jim remembers a Christian family from Nigeria who turned to him for all manner of assistance. Their beloved daughter had worked as an accountant for the Windows of the World restaurant.

So many memories...the wall covered with stuffed bears and pictures of the missing, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner each day, the ceremony on Oct. 28 of the families receiving an urn filled with ashes and dust of Ground Zero along with the American flag, the beautiful and friendly petting dogs brought to the Pier by their owners, and the hundreds of letters and paper hearts with messages sent by school children.

One last memory is the policemen who sang God Bless America each noon as we stopped our work to listen. All this was and is a never-to-be-forgotten time in our lives, to make a difference in other lives.

With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 coming up in September, this is a personal account by a late resident of Sunnyside of what it was like to provide aid in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy that affected so many people around the country and the world. It is also a reminder of the importance of volunteering in times of disaster.