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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the September 26,
2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Aftershocks of September 11: View from the Red Cross
Troubled times bring out the best in people,
Sullivan has found. As CEO of the American Red Cross of Central
New Jersey on Alexander Road, Sullivan directed staff and volunteer
efforts to deal with the World Trade Center crisis. "It has been
an absolute outpouring of volunteer and financial support," he
says, "from Rider University students to kindergarten kids and
corporations. One fire company took up a collection and raised
It’s just been constant."
While the world’s attention focuses on rescue efforts at Ground Zero,
New Jersey’s Red Cross workers have different goals. "We began
by helping stranded travelers, tourists or people who worked in New
Jersey but lived in New York, to shelter and feed them and provide
physical health services and crisis counseling," says Sullivan.
In a three-day operation starting September 11, the Red Cross helped
2,000 people at centers in New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Hudson, Union,
and Bergen counties.
"We supported the Port Authority’s "compassion center" at
the Newark Airport Marriott, providing emotional support counseling,
meals, and transportation to those who lost relatives and live in
New Jersey." The Red Cross provided 12 volunteers per shift for about
"We are reaching out to families of rescue workers, families who
were on the airplanes that crashed, and families with members who
worked in the World Trade Center," he says. Among the services
offered: emotional health counseling and help in getting free
financial planning advice, and legal advice through pro bono
"We are getting people who say `my husband did the finances and
I don’t know what to do.’"
Cash is often the crucial support needed, money to keep a family
until insurance kicks in, payments for mortgages, utilities, food,
clothing — even for burial expenses. "Sometimes the help might
be $500 or $1,500 to get them through," says Sullivan.
"We can provide transportation if they need it," says
"We sent one family back to Oregon; they had just moved here and
after the tragedy they just wanted to go back home."
"Across the state we are trying to be part of the healing
The Red Cross supports candlelight vigils by handing out information
(brochures produced by the national organization on dealing with
giving people a drink of water, and having mental health workers
to talk to people.
The Red Cross also wants to help counter any ethnic backlash.
part of our mission to reach out to government and community leaders
to get out there in the forefront about this, to give our point of
view," says Sullivan. The national organization is developing
new, specific brochures about this.
"This isn’t your typical Red Cross operation," says Sullivan.
"We have people reaching out to the families with a simple
that we are here if you need us now — or if you need us in two
weeks." A "no" response now will elicit a call in two
weeks. "We had a call from a mother who had a baby a month ago
and all of a sudden got panicked, and we reached out to her."
Millions of dollars, corporate and individual donations, are pouring
into the American Red Cross coffers. Monies that go to the Central
Jersey chapter can be earmarked for families in New Jersey who are
victims of the terrorist attack. For instance, among the contributions
was a $25,000 donation from United Way of Greater Mercer County
be used by families affected by this disaster." These monies get
forwarded to the national pool and directed back to Central Jersey
as needed. "Any family who has been affected by this disaster
can get money from the national pool," he says.
Much of this money will end up being used for help needed far down
the road. "The national Red Cross is thinking about the long term
presence that it is going to put in New Jersey, New York, and
says Sullivan. "In Oklahoma, they set up a mental health center
and are still working with families affected by the Oklahoma City
bombing. I’m sure it will be a long term effort. We won’t be gone
in three weeks or six months or a year."
Typically, the American Red Cross raises its own money and spends
its own money and has no formal association with other funds or
Because of its global emphasis, Sullivan says, the Red Cross has a
head start in administering the funds. "We know what we are going
to spend the money on — families, rescue workers or anyone
by the event — while other organizations don’t have a process
To donate, go to www.njredcross.org. Call 609-951-8550 to donate money
with a credit card or to sign up for volunteer training. Checks to
the Disaster Relief Fund can be mailed to American Red Cross of
New Jersey, 707 Alexander Road, Suite 101, Princeton 08540. To donate
blood, call 800-GIVE-LIFE.
Sullivan practices what he preaches when it comes to emotional crisis
counseling. "I started to see the burnout yesterday. We were open
24 hours a day for a number of days," he says. So he scheduled
"debriefings," group meetings where volunteers and staff could
meet with a counselor and talk about their feelings. "I’ve got
my staff working shifts and not allowing them to stay. I’m making
people go home for the first time."
While working hard at home, Central Jersey does have a presence at
Ground Zero. A retired couple left Alexander Road on Tuesday,
11, at noon. "They took our emergency response vehicle," said
Sullivan in the interview on Friday, September 21. "Last we heard
they were feeding the rescue workers."
— Barbara Fox
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