911 volunteer · Volunteering

Why am I doing this?

IMG_1406Wow! My first blog in almost 10 years; that  being about sumo. Unfortunately, work and little spare time prevented me from continuing that one in 2008, although if you’re REALLY interested, let me know and I might be able to pull up the archive on that one. In fact, try this for everything I blogged on sumo 2007/2008.

This blog will be mostly about my experiences as a Visitor Services Volunteer at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Some happy, a few sad, but all fulfilling.

About myself, if volunteering were a paid position, I’d be destitute by now. Don’t get me wrong – I love volunteering, but after a number of years volunteering with Ms. Marilyn Shaw, Volunteer Coordinator for the New York Road Runners Club, and until her position became a paying position and they went outside to replace Marilyn, I had a great time about 3 days a week  preparing for the almost weekly road races, generally in Central Park. And, of course, there was the BIG one, with months of planning and hard work – the New York City Marathon. Now, it’s called The [Insert Major Sponsor] New York City Marathon. Well, after Marilyn was practically forced to leave, so did I. Much of the joy of that volunteer effort came from my close association with Marilyn over the years – we have remained friends now after almost 36 years.

In the meantime, I was privileged to have been accepted as a volunteer with The Actors Fund as an AIDS Buddy and a supporter of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. Close to three years as a buddy, and I, like so many others before, totally burned out from the sheer emotion involved with assisting AIDS patients at a time when there was no viable cure for HIV/AIDS and the inevitable was, sadly, exactly that – inevitable.

For a brief period of time June 2005 – October 2006, I was the volunteer editor of an free online sumo magazine, until I was summarily “fired” for permitting an (also free) French language magazine to publish one of my personal sumo photos. Enough said. My intense interest in sumo continued, nonetheless, and does to this day.

On the night  of September 11, 2001, from my hotel room in Tokyo, Japan, where the time is 12 or 13 hours later than the East Coast of the United States, I turned on the TV to what looked like a program about yet another horror film about NY skyscrapers by Japanese filmmakers. It didn’t take more than a minute to understand what the Japanese-language newscaster was saying, but unable to comprehend was was actually taking place. When the reality hit – and still hasn’t left – my knees gave out and I sank to the floor. My son regularly traveled between Boston and  Los Angeles. I will dispense with a description of the anxiety and incoherence on my part until I found several hours later that he was safely aboard a ship in the Atlantic Ocean. I stayed away from the World Trade Center site, or as it would be called, Ground Zero, for the next 15 years.

Fast forward to May 2011. Somehow, I was on the mailing list for the 911 Memorial and [under construction] Museum. One of the opportunities for supporting the Memorial was to donate a cobblestone. Done. Next, with construction starting on the Museum itself, and the Memorial completed, I received an invitation to become an inaugural member of the 911 Memorial and Museum. Done, but I never availed myself of any of the benefits, including complimentary visits upon completion of the Museum. I chose to become  an Inaugural Visionary Member. In 2016, I became aware of the 911 Memorial and Museum 5K Run; my friend Julie and I participated then and returned for the 2017 event.

March 2017′ I received an email from  Member Services  inviting me to support the 9/11 Memorial & Museum by becoming a volunteer and to join  a tour of the 9/11 Memorial Museum and an information session to learn more about volunteer opportunities. All of a sudden, something clicked. As when I decided to do SOMETHING during the AIDS crisis, and became a Buddy, here, too, I felt that I HAD to do something to promote the word about September 11, 2001, the souls that perished on that day, as well as in the bombing of the World Trade center in 1993, the first responders, of course, the brave canines and their handlers who joined the search and rescue teams from all over the country, and others who risked so much to assist in the recovery and identification of victims, and then in the rebirth of Ground Zero. I didn’t even wait for the tour; I applied immediately.

I won’t bore you with the details – training, tests, mentoring, etc., that led up to my first day as a Visitor Services Volunteer and my first day on my own. That first day is where this all starts.

Please feel free to ask questions and comments or contact me.

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