MOUNT VERNON — Four area residents answered when the call went out for Red Cross volunteers to assist in disaster relief following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Henry Allen, Marie Poe and Tess Ide served at the United Airlines Flight 93 plane crash site near Shanksville, Pa., and Alice Campbell, now deceased, was deployed to New York City.
Allen and Poe, who have responded to natural disasters in the past, talked with the News about their experiences during the one and a half weeks they spent in Shanksville, a town about the size of Bangs.
“At first we didn’t know if we were going to go to New York or Pennsylvania,” said Allen. “Then we didn’t know how we were going to get there.”
The Shanksville trio ended up renting a car which was placed in a car pool at the site.
Poe and Allen worked from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., doing what is called mass care. That means feeding anyone who needed to be fed; from the search teams, to the 120 state patrol officers to FBI agents and crime scene investigators.
Even though the entire area was brightly lit, “The midnight shift is always a dismal time,” Poe said, “So, we tried the best we could to keep occupied and keep things going.”
Allen and Poe said their first reaction to the scene was that the whole thing was “very surreal.”
“They made part of it into a sort of informal memorial,” Allen explained. “The parents of crash victims brought things. Picture to yourself: It’s nighttime, very quiet. All you see and hear are generators in the background, and the families lit candles. Every night they added more and more stuff to this temporary memorial.”
Another surreal aspect was the intense security that was in force around the perimeter.