Looking Back on 9/11
9/11 was an act of hitherto unimaginable violence. But as we remember Ground Zero New York, let us also recall the heroism and the volunteer movement it inspired.
Not only did 9/11 form an indelible memory for anyone alive that day, it also represented both the worst and the best in humanity.
Looking Back on 9/11[/tweetthis]
As a New Yorker, I will never forget the hundreds of volunteers from across the U.S. and around the world who made their way to New York. Even before the airlines were allowed to fly into JFK or LaGuardia, busloads of volunteers headed for the city to help, despite the uncertainty of what might come next and the risk and unheard of levels of toxic pollution.
“The horror of 9/11 was the work of a scant few,” said my friend Ayal Lindeman, nurse, EMT, and one of the volunteers who was on the ground through the entire cleanup operation. He coordinated much of the disaster response of the Scientology Volunteer Minister Corps at Ground Zero. “The entire world responded, showing the true nature of humanity—through their care, love and unconditional help.”
Nearly 3,000 people died in that single act of terrorism. But Lindeman shared his insight into how much worse it might have been, and he sees 9/11 as one of the greatest rescue operations in history.
“It is not about faith, nationality or color. It is just humanity assisting humanity in need.”
“The Mass Casualty Plan stated that if the towers suffered catastrophic structural failure they were designed to pancake,” he said. “If they toppled they would take out a city block of buildings. They were 400 meters tall. If they toppled there would have been 250,000 casualties—if they pancaked, 50,000.
“Over 25,000 people were gotten out of the towers because of the work of the responders,” he says, “civilians who were fire wardens for their floor, strangers assisting others out to safety, the police, firefighters and EMS (Emergency Medical Services) responders, as well as those who made the ultimate sacrifice that day in service to others. As one fire chief put it to me, ‘we all want to go home, we love our families—but there are people in there. That’s what we do’.”
Lindeman, a fellow New Yorker, sees the outpouring of help after 9/11 as a debt of honor to never be forgotten and to always be paid forward. He and thousands of volunteers have carried on doing just that ever since. In fact, 9/11 inspired a massive movement of volunteering—not only the Scientology Volunteer Ministers movement, which has been involved in nearly every major disaster since that time. It also inspired the creation or expansion of many other groups and organizations including the 9/11 Fund, ACT (Advance Catastrophe Technologies), Nechama and Archangel Airborne.
— Volunteer Ministers (@ScientologyVM) September 13, 2016
Lindeman feels a kinship with first responders who, like him, put their lives on the line to help when disaster strikes. “For me as a fellow responder, they are family,” he says. “There is a bond that only another responder understands. It is not about faith, nationality or color. It is just humanity assisting humanity in need.”
Scientology Volunteer Ministers play a unique role in the first-response community. While they aid those in need, they are also there to help the responders themselves—the firefighters, the search and rescue teams, the police.
As an article in The New York Times described a week after 9/11, “At any time, well over 100 Volunteer Ministers from the Church of Scientology mill around the remains of the World Trade Center. On the day of the attack, they took in food to workers….When rescue workers stagger from the wreckage, the ministers, identified by their T-shirts, try to focus the workers’ minds and revive their bodies. In ‘locationals’ workers are told to look at the sky, or at water bottles on a table—anything to ground them in the present, the outside world, rather than the horror within the rubble.”
Assists, such as the “locationals” the Times described, are simple techniques developed by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard that can speed healing by addressing the mental and spiritual factors in illness and trauma.
“Scientology teaches there’s a connection between the mind and touch,” the commentator stated. “It’s called an ‘assist.’ In 20 minutes we watched as Nicole (a Volunteer Minister from California) took a pained little girl from frowns to giggles.”
The Today Show also spoke of the Volunteer Ministers as “often doing the work no one else wants to….” Lindeman explains why they do so.
“Caring for those who render care allows them to continue to render care,” he says, “medical staff needing patient transport or a helping hand, ensuring an emergency operations center is clean and has supplies.”
It even extends to is directing operations. Knowing his family is in good hands, he will be able to remain focused on serving the entire community.
And it most definitely includes helping first responders with assists, which can melt away the stress and tension from a day digging through rubble for bodies or working nonstop to put out a bushfire or forest fire. Providing a kind word, some food and an assist helps them regroup so they are ready to go back on the front lines or so they can get a bit of restful sleep.
Lindeman says he has seen disasters bring out the best in people. “The gang bangers who risked their lives to pull people from under the San Francisco highway collapse, the known criminal who risked his own life and saved people,” he says. “When things are at their worst the vast majority of people are at their best. There was an alcoholic who had been in and out of jail. He joined us for months just helping folks no matter the task. And he stayed sober the entire time.”
For more information on the Scientology Volunteer Ministers visit their website at www.volunteerministers.org.