Helping those who lost so much on 9/11

I watched, as I am sure did many of you, the news coverage leading up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. There is much about that single day that is still stunningly clear: the beautiful blue, cloud-free sky and crisp, cool air of that morning; the disbelief and sheer terror that filled the air following the plane crashes in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.; the images of the towers crumbling and the pictures of New Yorkers walking for hours away from the burning towers to get home.

I remember the quiet of the sky here in Boston as the entire country became a no-fly zone, and the tension that prevailed as we watched the tragedy unfold on the single, small screen, black and white TV that was on in the office. That morning, we were faced with making decisions that impacted not only our individual safety and that of our families, but for the clients we serve as well. I remember wanting most to be sure that everyone got home safely: employees and clients both, so that I could be home when my own children arrived home from school that afternoon.

The days that followed 9/11 were surreal, as we learned more about the terrorist attack. Even more compelling were the stories that followed, not only of the unimaginable losses suffered but the heroic acts of so many, especially those of the first responders. In the time immediately following the tragedy, millions of dollars were donated to a number of national organizations to assist the families of those who lost their lives in the towers and on the planes. In Massachusetts, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy spearheaded efforts to gather federal, state and local resources to meet the needs of the Massachusetts' families who had lost so much in the attack.

Catholic Charities became involved in the local recovery efforts, creating a team of clinically trained social workers and case managers to meet with the families living in Massachusetts who lost loved ones in the attack. The work was challenging, but it was important, as our team first ensured that families of victims received emotional support by making face-to-face contact with them in their homes. We also ensured families received the important financial assistance that was available to meet their immediate basic needs while they dealt with the loss of loved ones.

Knowing that recovery from such a devastating tragedy takes years, Catholic Charities made a long term commitment to participate in the 9/11 recovery efforts in Massachusetts. Over the past 10 years, and in partnership with other human service providers and the Mass 9/11 Fund, Catholic Charities has provided basic needs and holiday assistance, sponsored social activities for family members, staffed support groups, and provided opportunities for volunteer activities for 9/11 family members. We also provided consultation and clinical support for families who chose to participate in and observe the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted of conspiring to kill U.S. citizens on 9/11, from the federal courthouse in Boston.

As they did again this year, Catholic Charities staff have also provided support every year for the 9/11 anniversary commemoration activities held at the State House and in the Public Garden. On this 10th anniversary year we join so many across the country in remembering the people who lost their lives that day and the families left behind. Together we pray that families find comfort from the support they have had and will continue to receive.

Debbie Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.