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9/11 Museum extols the virtues of volunteerism

During the dedication ceremony of the National September 11 Memorial Museum in Lower Manhattan, images flashed on a massive screen in the great subterranean hall showing men and women at work at Ground Zero—at the “Taj Mahal” (the Salvation Army tent so named by the workers); and of Salvation Army volunteers, writing prayers on battered beams of steel, counseling survivors, offering water, sandwiches, coffee, and words of comfort. Clearly distinguishing them were their bright red Salvation Army shields affixed to white windbreaker jackets and construction worker hardhats.

Just a few days prior to the actual dedication ceremony, hundreds of Salvation Army volunteers were invited to a preview of the museum in response to a letter of invitation extended by the Museum Foundation to the Greater New York Division. In the aftermath of 9/11, the lives of these volunteers were deeply influenced.

Kelly–Jane Cotter from Central New Jersey reflected on her visit to the 9/11 Museum for myCentraljersey.com. “One of the artifacts I most appreciated seeing was the Ground Zero Cross,” she wrote, “which I vividly remembered from my time as a volunteer with The Salvation Army. Yet while visiting the museum, I walked right past the 17–foot crossbeam. My mind was reeling, my eyes were filled with tears, and I simply couldn’t see it until I noticed some firefighters aiming their cameras upward.”

Tanya Hoggard, a Cincinnati–based flight attendant, had rearranged her schedule to volunteer with The Salvation Army. She came to realize that children from around the country wanted their messages of thanks and hope to reach the firefighters and rescue workers at Ground Zero. Through friendships forged with firefighters who visited the Taj Mahal for coffee, conversation, and snacks, Hoggard learned that firehouses throughout New York City were receiving mail bags containing warm wishes from children—sometimes attached to stuffed animals, candy, murals, flags, and quilts. These expressions of love and gratitude proved overwhelming. Hoggard thought, Why don’t I collect and safeguard these touching expressions? With permission, she archived and preserved the materials. Her resulting “Dear Hero Collection” is now on display at the museum.

For Sam Potter, Oklahoma’s disaster relief director, the preview day was an emotional one. He had spent a total of 39 days in Lower Manhattan, providing relief in the wake of the attacks. At that time, disaster relief chaplaincy was in its infancy and was yet to be organized nationally. However, the Oklahoma team carried with them the experiences of ministering to people devastated by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. “I think the biggest thing about the museum is that it truly tells the whole story of what happened that 9/11,” Porter wrote for “theCatholicspirit.com,” an online newspaper. “I think it’s one of the best museums I’ve ever seen. It’s so complete.”

Jennifer Adams–Webb volunteered in the aftermath of 9/11 for The Salvation Army. She had worked in World Trade Tower One for several years prior to the attack. Today, she is chief executive officer of the September 11th Families’ Association and co–founder of the 9/11 Tribute Center.

Jim Daly, another Salvation Army volunteer, had watched on TV and in horror as the World Trade Center’s iconic twin towers fell down.

A decade later, this parishioner of St. John in Little Canada continues to reflect on time spent as a volunteer at Ground Zero in January 2002 in articles written about him in Salvation Army publications and in other periodicals.

After answering the Army’s call for volunteers, Daly found himself at Ground Zero staring into “the pit,” a hole the size of a football field, where construction workers, police officers, and firefighters continued to unearth human remains four months after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

When asked by a reporter how the experience affected him, Daly paused for a moment, then said, “I have an appreciation for every day when I watch the sun come up. I think [the experience] probably just strengthened that.”

Major James Betts, general secretary for the Greater New York Division, was also moved by his visit to the museum. “I really didn’t anticipate the emotional impact it would have,” he said. “The museum was moving beyond my expectations.” Betts visited with his wife Major Sue–Ellen Betts, divisional secretary for program, and Majors Philip and Jodi Lloyd, territorial youth and associate youth secretaries. This was especially meaningful to Major James Betts since he and Major Phil served together at Ground Zero in the days following 9/11. “I think with it being built underground and including so many images and sounds of the area in which I had served, [it] just brought it all back,” said Betts. “I am grateful for all of the work folks have put into creating a sacred space for us to honor people who made the ultimate sacrifice. May God bless all who enter in.”

by Warren L. Maye

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