After dropping her son off at grade school Tuesday morning, September 11th, Marjie Kukor pulled in her driveway to find her neighbor standing in the yard looking bewildered. “Did you hear what happened?” the neighbor asked.
“September 11th was what prompted me to volunteer in the first place.” Marjie said she called her local chapter that day and within the week she was training to become a disaster mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross.
Because she was hesitant to leave her family during such an emotional and vulnerable time, Marjie served at her home chapter doing Disaster Mental Health counseling for the volunteers who returned from New York in the weeks following 9-11. She also travelled to local schools and businesses to give presentations about preparedness and coping with terrorism.
“I was struck by the people who would return from New York and start talking in vivid, graphic detail. They seemed to appreciate having someone to talk to about their experiences.” Marjie also did some phone counseling designed to allow people to talk about their experiences with trained Disaster Mental Health Volunteers.
Marjie feels that the ten years since 9-11 have changed our nation and our levels of awareness and preparedness. “We had always put emphasis on being physically prepared, but terrorism is psychological. And it’s not enough to be physically prepared, we also need to be mentally prepared as far as what we can do to prepare. Nothing drove that home quite like 9-11.”
The American Red Cross realized that the psychological impact of the 9-11 attacks were going to be widespread, complex, and lasting. As the number of US and international residents affected, physically and emotionally, by the disaster climbed, Red Cross developed a partnership to most-effectively serve those individuals.
Besides providing trained volunteers like Marjie in New York and local chapters around the country, the Red Cross teamed up with the September 11th Fund to create an innovative long-term program to more effectively assist those with 9-11/related psychological distress. By June 30, 2006 the 9-11 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Program had assisted 10,096 individuals.