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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

ONE OF THE buildings closest to the Twin Towers still bore the scars of their collapse earlier this month. Pieces of the now-gone towers can be seen sticking out of its side.

Red Cross, as Always,
Springs Into Action

By Ted Waddell
SULLIVAN COUNTY — October 26, 2001 – On Sept. 11, Elizabeth “Bette” Popovich, director of the Sullivan County chapter of the American Red Cross in Greater New York, was headed into the city for a routine meeting.
She was surfing radio channels, trying to find something of interest, when she heard news station commentators talking about reports that an airplane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Is this a radio drama?’” she recalled. “I was waiting for the disclaimer, and then I thought, ‘This is really happening!’ so I took the next exit [off the Palisades Parkway] and called Damaris Rundle back at our office in Mongaup Valley.”
Rundle is head of American Red Cross (ARC) disaster services in the county.
According to Popovich, Rundle hadn’t heard of the attack yet, but when she turned on a news scanner at the office, she learned it was true.
Continuing on to the city, Popovich decided to take the Tappan Zee Bridge rather than the “high visibility target” George Washington Bridge. She watched emergency services vehicles race down the West Side Highway towards the WTC disaster site.
“On the way down, I heard about the second tower getting hit and then the Pentagon,” she said. “It was getting progressively worse.”
Although NYC was shutting down in the wake of the emergency, Popovich was allowed to proceed with her marked Red Cross vehicle to the ARC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the Red Cross’ headquarters at 150 Amsterdam Avenue, about 4-5 miles from the WTC. (A couple of weeks later, the ARC EOC was relocated to their Brooklyn chapter at Cadman Plaza East, across the Brooklyn Bridge from lower Manhattan.)
“Since Day One, it was a national operation overseen by the Washington, D.C. Office for Recruitment and Deployment,” said Popovich.
In the hours following the attacks on the nation’s mighty symbols of international commerce, the Sullivan County chapter received dozens of phone calls from ARC volunteers and people who wanted to help in any way they could. Priority was given to medical professionals, mental health workers, people with specialized emergency services expertise, members of the clergy and trained ARC volunteers.
“The Red Cross started calling in Local Disaster Volunteers as part of our disaster services deployment activation,” said Popovich. “Basically, within the first 24 hours, the local chapter does whatever it can to set up an operation and provide assistance.
“They really hit the button,” she said of the national response, adding that the first busload of volunteers arrived from the nation’s capital later that afternoon. A blood drive was set up in the ARC’s NYC headquarters lobby – “hundreds and hundreds of people just wanted to do something” – but that after about 4 p.m. they couldn’t process any more, and people were asked to come back the next day to give blood.
Popovich said that, in the hours following the WTC terrorist attacks, blood drives were going on all over the city, but as rescue efforts turned into a recovery operation, the hope of helping casualties faded as people began to realize the extent of the atrocity when the odor of death spread across lower Manhattan into neighboring boroughs.
“Everyone was working hard,” she added.
On the Move
At about 1 p.m. on 9/11, a bus full of local volunteers left the Sullivan County Government Center enroute to the WTC disaster site. Hundreds of area residents also headed into the city, either as official representatives of law enforcement/emergency incident management agencies, or on their own.
From the government center, the bus traveled to the ARC Orange County center, and then on to the Westchester chapter in White Plains (at that point, still the staging area for the ARC Northern Tier) for medical exams and paperwork.
The bus then departed for the ARC NYC HQ and arrived at approximately 9:30 p.m. According to Popovich, most of the volunteers were dispatched to what became known as Ground Zero, while several volunteers went into the buildings in search of survivors.
“The first responders saw people jumping out of the buildings and then had to escape as the buildings started to collapse,” said Popovich of the initial rescue efforts.
In the wake of the fall of the Twin Towers, ARC volunteers “were emotionally drained. They saw [EMS rescue personnel] covered in soot and walked past bodies and parts of bodies.”
Several ARC Sullivan County chapter volunteers trained in diasater services responded to the city within hours of the attacks on the WTC: Al and Maria Frangipane, Donald McBride, Jeannie Fox, Mary Cohen, and Carmen Rodrigues.
After Popovich left the city around midnight, several local ARC chapter volunteers returned to the site several times to assist in the massive recovery operation.
In the wake of the attacks, area school students have donated a considerable sum of money to the ARC relief effort in the city. Money was raised by local Boy Scouts washing cars, and the Monticello High School Red Cross Club also contributed.
“Over $30,000 was donated to the local chapter for disaster relief,” said Popovich.

Info on the Red Cross

The American Red Cross traces its roots back to 1862 when Henry Dunant, a young Swiss businessman, wrote “A Memory of Solerino,” in which he described what he had seen on the northern Italian battlefield in 1859, where 40,000 troops were killed or wounded and left without help.
His concern led to the birth of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863.
On May 21, 1861, Clara Barton, along with a group of friends, founded the American Association of the Red Cross after the former school teacher and government worker went to a battlefield during the Civil War to help care for wounded soldiers.
In 1900, the U.S. Congress granted the American Red Cross (ARC) a charter, making the volunteer organization responsible for providing services to members of the U.S. armed forces and relief to disaster victims at home and abroad.
Today, 1.2 million ARC volunteers respond to the scene of 40,000 disasters annually.
Since terrorists slammed hijacked commercial aircraft into the Twin Towers of the WTC on Sept. 11, killing thousands of innocent civilians and FDNY and NYPD personnel, the American Red Cross has responded with a massive ongoing relief effort.
As of this week, more than 7,417,000 meals and snacks have been served at the Ground Zero site and surrounding Red Cross service centers (the daily average is 150,000); 76,000 counseling sessions have been conducted; 82 Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) are on scene; and 700 spiritual case counselors have responded to 47,000 inquiries for assistance.
The ARC estimates that, by the time work ceases at the NYC disaster site, they will have spent more than $300 million in the relief effort. At present, $100 million has been set aside for a gift program. So far, $27 million has been distributed to family members of victims.
There are several Red Cross Service Centers offering help in NYC: financial assistance for expenses related to the disaster; mental health counseling; cleanup supplies like brooms, mops and bleach; personal hygiene supplies; and vouchers for food, clothing, housing and replacement of medications.
“Anyone with disaster-caused needs is encouraged to contact the American Red Cross Client HELP number at 1-212-219-6200 in Manhattan, or 1-877-746-4987 outside Manhattan,” said local chapter director Elizabeth “Bette” Popovich.
The Sullivan County chapter is training Disaster Service Human Resource (DSHR) certified volunteers. Training involves courses in volunteer orientation, introduction to disaster, mass casualty care and first aid.
As always, there is a need for blood, as there was a shortage before the 9-11 attacks.
To make a monetary donation to the New York City ARC relief effort: call 1-800-HELP NOW, visit (which accepts credit card donations) or mail a check to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 3756, Church Street Station, New York, NY 10008.
The Sullivan County chapter of the American Red Cross in Greater New York, located in Mongaup Valley, can be reached at 583-8340.
“We always encourage people to donate money or sign up as volunteers,” said Popovich.

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