Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reflections on Yesterday’s September 11 Tribute

By Josh Lockwood, CEO of the American Red Cross Greater NY Region

Luis Avila, Greater NY Chief Response Officer (in the red tie) greets attendees

Yesterday evening, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum marked the 10th anniversary of the official end of the recovery operation with a tribute on the 9/11 Memorial Plaza in lower Manhattan.

During the nearly three-hour event, thousands of volunteers and first responders who had worked at Ground Zero, along with their guests, made their way past a receiving line of first responders, clergy and others, as well as former and current officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former NY Gov. George Pataki.

I went to the event with Luis Avila, our Senior Response Officer. We watched families of 9/11 victims go through the receiving line and thank Luis and other first responders. On the ride down Luis shared with me his harrowing experience on 9/11 as he and other Red Crossers sought to respond to the worst disaster in our City’s history and then ran for their lives as the towers fell.

We can all understand the emotional resonance of that experience, not just for Luis but for other staff members and volunteers here—folks like Charlie Wells, who was with the New York City fire department at the time.

At various points in the evening I’d see someone approach me wearing a Red Cross shirt or a Red Cross lanyard—volunteers, and current and former staff members, some of whom came from as far away as Albany.

What was clear was how incredibly meaningful the event was for all of them, and for all of us in attendance. It was deeply gratifying to meet people for the first time both in and outside the Red Cross, see the Red Cross logo and have people tell me again and again how important our role was in the city and continues to be; how thankful they were—and are—for the Red Cross.

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