9/11 Reflection and Remembrance: More Volunteer Recollections

The editors who prepared this September 2002 tribute article spoke to dozens of NAR member and AE volunteers over two days, gathering many more recollections than could fit in the print magazine. Those memories, along with additional heartfelt letters of gratitude from Relief Fund recipients, follow here in full.

September 1, 2002

“The application-processing period was very emotional. I logged 500 applications and forwarded them to volunteer members, who verified information, calculated the amount families should receive, and collected checks from NAR for distribution to families. To this day, I get phone calls once a week from people looking for funding. One family that received money from the fund was promised money from other charitable organizations but didn't receive it. So they called me to see if we were opening up our funding again. The checks were godsends to people. And when they saw the amounts—$6,000 to $7,000—they’d call me crying with happiness.” Elaine Fourman, assistant to the executive vice president, New Jersey Association of REALTORS®

“When I heard about the relief fund, I felt compelled to run to our state headquarters to volunteer. Our community supports us by using our services, and we have to give back. Since Sept. 11, I find that I’m much more appreciative of life and more cautious. I hug and kiss my husband before we go to bed every night. I make sure I know where my child is, even though she’s an adult.” Randy Lyn Ketive, Classic Realty Group, Fort Lee, N.J.

“I changed my work schedule to help. I verified aid applications—I remember talking with a woman whose husband had died and it drained me. I thought, if I feel this way, I can only imagine how this woman felt.” Joyce McDaniel, GRI, e-PRO®, RE/MAX Platinum, North Brunswick, N.J.

“The Massachusetts annual convention opening day was Sept. 11, 2001. The association’s leaders questioned whether we should cancel the convention. The overwhelming reaction was no. We proceeded with key events but canceled the hoopla. The vast majority of attendees stayed. It became a bonding event. We held a dinner where people shared what they were feeling.

“I delivered a check with our treasurer. The recipient was mentally and physically disabled. Her mother, who was her sole support, had been in one of the planes. She said, ‘I never really knew who REALTORS® were, and I can’t believe you’re doing this for me.’ She hugged us and cried.

During state and local meetings, members told how proud they were to be REALTORS® and to be part of this experience. I’ve worked in the REALTOR® organization for more than 20 years. The outpouring of support made me realize that I made the right career choice. REALTORS® care about their communities. These are people doing good work every day.” John Fridlington, executive officer, Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, Waltham

“Delivering checks was one of the nicest things I’ve done in my lifetime. It wasn’t just about giving victims’ families the money but also about talking with them and letting them talk. The first family I visited was a woman with a 9-year-old daughter. Her husband had been on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. We had tea with them, and when my colleague and I left, we started to cry.” Jeanette Tighe, CRB, GRI, Carlson GMAC, Tewksbury, Mass.

"Some people would break into tears. They had just filled out their application, and one week to 10 days later, they had checks in their hands. It helped release some of the pressure of, ‘What do I do next?’ The experience gave me a new perspective on what's really important. My future son-in-law was a policeman and is now a fireman, so you think about it.” George K. Wonica, CRB, past president, New York State Association of REALTORS®; Wonica, REALTORS® and Appraisers, Staten Island, N.Y., who delivered assistance to more than 40 families

"Outside of my immediate family, nothing has struck me as powerfully as helping these families. Six to seven days after we received applications, people had their checks. One lady gave me a big hug and a kiss and later sent me a nice thank-you note. It was—and still is—very heart-rending.” Thomas F. Tabone, past president, New York State Association of REALTORS®; Essex Associate, REALTORS®, Flushing, N.Y., who delivered assistance to about 20 families

“The Relief Fund wasn’t anonymous. It was person to person, reaching out and helping.” Susan Foord, Weichert REALTORS, Suffern, N.Y.

“It was heart wrenching delivering the checks. At one point, I was crying and the recipient was comforting me.

“We weren’t encouraged to stay in touch, but one woman who died in the World Trade Center seemed to keep reappearing in my life. I’d delivered a relief check to her husband and he wrote a nice thank-you note. About a week later, I was attending a volunteer breakfast and saw a full-page memorial ad for the woman in The Wall Street Journal. A few days later, I saw a human-interest feature about a father and his young daughters who had released helium balloons with messages from the girls to their mother in heaven—and it was the same family. Later that day, I was telling my stepson and he said, ‘That man works for me.’” Gabriele Bishop, GRI, Prudential Long Island Real Estate, East Islip, N.Y.

“Assessing applications was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I ended up visiting each of the applicants personally. I told the families that their loved ones were national heroes. It was the right thing to say, but it didn’t seem enough.” June Chapman, Chapman and Associates and RE/MAX Olympic, Manassas, Va.

“The turnaround time was incredible. Sometimes it was only five days from the time I verified the application until I had a check in hand. When you’d call a woman and hear several children in the background or talk to people, such as the man with severe disabilities whose wife had been the family’s only breadwinner, you saw how important that was.” Kevin Breen, Coldwell Banker Carriage House, Stafford, Va.

“The tragedy of 9/11 makes you realize the importance of giving back. After working with the Relief Fund, I wanted to continue giving back in different ways. I’ve become involved in a birthright organization and in a midnight run to take the homeless to shelters. [Such an event] makes you re-evaluate your whole being, especially when this business is so consuming of your time.” Diane Arenholz, ABR®, Houlihan/Lawrence Inc., Jefferson Valley, N.Y.

“I delivered more than 25 checks. It superseded my regular business until early December. We may not have received as much publicity as some groups, but we delivered.” Ellen Feld, Susan E. Goldy Inc., Bronx, N.Y.

“My background is in critical care and hospice care, so I learned firsthand about the frailty of life. Sept. 11 and delivering checks to the survivors just heightened that sense. I made up my mind then that I was going to make an effort to live my life to the fullest—not to end my life with regrets for things I wish I’d done.” Gwen Pangle, Long & Foster Real Estate, Leesburg, Va.

EYEWITNESSES

Sales associates in the Greenwich Village office of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy watched from an office window as the towers collapsed. “It’s perceived by everyone in our company as a hallowed day,” says David Michonski, CIPS, the company’s CEO. Three years ago, Michonski’s company became the first real estate brokerage in Manhattan to join the REALTOR® association. “When we learned about the REALTORS® Housing Relief Fund,” he says, “it gave us an incredible positive feeling, amidst all this gloom, about our decision to join.”

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