Locals reflect on NYC relief mission
The memory of Sept. 11 may have dulled in the six months since planes struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Many have long since removed patriotic stickers from their cars’ rear windows and mothballed Old Glory in their closets until Independence Day.
But for a half-dozen members of Grass Valley’s First Baptist Church who returned March 21 from a mission to New York City, memories of the tragic day have been renewed.
They arrived in New York on March 11, the night after lights representing the Twin Towers were turned on, illuminating lower Manhattan with blue streaks across a night sky.
As part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s disaster relief effort, the volunteers served food at a makeshift Salvation Army soup kitchen on nearby Staten Island and delivered water to workers clearing debris from the fallen 110-story towers.
The Grass Valley volunteers served prepackaged fried chicken, eggplant Parmesan, beef stroganoff and pork chops from New York restaurants to workers cleaning up at Ground Zero, and provided a sympathetic ear as well.
“These people haven’t been able to go through the grieving process yet,” said Cindy McKinney, noting that some never left the site of the devastation, now a 16-acre hole 10 stories deep.
“It was like it had happened last week,” said Josh Ramey, a firefighter for Peardale-Chicago Park. “It really surprised me, because I thought they were getting back to normal.”
The group – Ramey and his mother, Sue, McKinney, Ryan Smart, Marvin Rackley and Ana Addington – said New Yorkers were a friendly, if still skittish, group.
When they weren’t serving food or delivering water, the volunteers talked about the past six months with scores of New Yorkers.
“I think it was all just bottled up inside them,” McKinney said, “and they just wanted to talk about it.”
“They weren’t afraid to talk about it because they knew we’d be gone in a few days,” Smart said.
The group even met a handful of workers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shooing away birds that might eat off dead carcasses, thus cross-contaminating bodies that could be used for DNA screening to find out their identities.
“I just feel we were privileged to go over there and help out,” Josh Ramey said.
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