By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO April 29, 2002 All Americans, especially New Yorkers, will never forget the events of Tuesday, Sept. 11.
On that fateful morning, two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, another hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and a fourth hijacked plane crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania. Those incidents changed everyones lives. No one will be the same after that day. Some have yet to fully deal with those events.
That is where Project Liberty comes in. Project Liberty was set up the day after the tragedies to help all those effected by those events. Chapters were set up in nine adjacent counties to New York City and throughout the state. The Sullivan County Chapter is run by the United Way, the only non-governmental agency to run a local chapter.
People need to know that what they feel is normal, explained Linda Cellini, chief professional officer of the United Way of Sullivan County. It is OK.
Some people just need to talk, she added. Otherwise it eats away at you.
Some people are hesitant to ask for help if they were not directly involved with those events, Project Liberty Team Leader Jane Lawson commented. We were all affected and stressed by it. We are here to help.
Project Liberty has worked hard to get the word out that they are there to help. They have participated in many events including the Job Fair at Sullivan County Community College and have started to visit local schools.
To reach more people, they have translated their information into different languages and have people from various cultures to work with specific communities. Some of the material and help is now available in Spanish. This summer, Project Liberty will reach out to the Hasidic and Ukranian communities.
Given the close proximity to New York City, many Sullivan County residents were affected by the events of Sept. 11. Three local families lost members in the tragedy. Almost everyone here either knows someone that was lost or a family that lost someone.
We touch base with those families each month, stated Cellini. We get them anything they need. They are feeling better, stronger. Some want to give back and get involved.
One of those people is Jack Genovse. Genovse lost a son at the World Trade Center. He has been a counselor at Project Liberty since it began. In fact, Genovse knew 111 of the people who were tragically killed.
You cannot let it dominate your life, Genovse said. You have to talk. People want to feel safe again.
As time moves on, the effects of Sept. 11 will be felt by more people. Wounds that some did not know were there will open as life slows down and more memorial specials on the events air.
The ramifications are far reaching, said Lawson. People have been more optimistic. They know they will get through it.
It goes in peaks and valleys, Cellini added. There are great life pressures already. This is a new burden to add to it.
The Sullivan County headquarters of Project Liberty is in a remote, private location. It is on Bard Road in Monticello, behind Wal-Mart. In fact, it is the only house back there. The team likes the location because it provides a quiet and private place to talk. It also helps people remain anonymous if they do not want it known that they are getting counseling.
Project Liberty also has young people on staff to deal with their age group. Young people are the future of this country and Project Liberty is most concerned with their well-being which is why they visit local schools and have programs directed at children.
They have to open up their feelings, stated one of the youth counselors, Juliet Henderson. They have to accept their feelings. Some of the kids are having trouble understanding what happened.
Right now, Project Liberty is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Eventually, they will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To get in touch with Project Liberty please call 794-1240 or 1-888-827-1055. All calls are kept confidential.