9/11 New York: The Heroes and Their Legacy

As we remember Ground Zero New York, let us also recall the heroism and the volunteer movement the disaster inspired.

“Where were you when it happened?” That question was probably asked a million times today. Not only did 9/11 form an indelible memory for anyone alive in 2001. It also represented both the worst and the best of humanity.

Scientologists remember the hundreds of volunteers from across the U.S. and around the world who made their way to New York to help—despite the uncertainty of what might come next and the risk of exposure to hazardous pollution.

“The horror of 9/11 was the work of a scant few. And the entire world responded, showing the true nature of humanity—through their care, love and unconditional help,” says Ayal Lindeman, nurse, EMT, and one of the volunteers coordinating the disaster response of the Scientology Volunteer Minister Corps at Ground Zero.

Lindeman, who has served at dozens of disasters, sees 9/11 as one of the greatest rescue operations in history.

“The Mass Casualty Plan stated that if the towers suffered catastrophic structural failure they were designed to pancake,” says Lindeman. “If they toppled they would take out a city block of buildings. They were 400 meters tall. If they toppled there would have been 250,000 casualties—if they pancaked, 50,000.

Scientology Volunteer Ministers provided food and comfort to the firefighters and emergency medical teams, so many of whom had lost friends in the disaster.
Scientology Volunteer Ministers provided food and comfort to the firefighters and emergency medical teams, so many of whom had lost friends in the disaster.

“Over 25,000 people were gotten out of the towers because of the work of the responders,” he says, “civilians who were fire wardens for their floor, strangers assisting others out to safety, the police, firefighters and EMS (Emergency Medical Services) responders, as well as those who made the ultimate sacrifice that day in service to others. As one fire chief put it to me, ‘we all want to go home, we love our families—but there are people in there. That’s what we do’.”

Lindeman, a New Yorker, views the response to 9/11 as a debt of honor to never be forgotten and always be paid forward, something he and thousands of volunteers in a tapestry of groups and organizations, have carried on doing ever since. In fact, 9/11 inspired a massive movement of volunteering across the boards—not only for the Scientology Volunteer Ministers movement, which has been involved in nearly every major disaster since that time. It also inspired many other groups and organizations that were formed or greatly expanded their operations, including the 9/11 Fund, ACT (Advance Catastrophe Technologies), Nechama and Archangel Airborne.

“There is a bond that only another responder understands.
It is not about faith, nationality or color. It is just humanity assisting humanity in need.”

First responders are professionals who selflessly give of themselves in times of need. “For me as a fellow responder, they are family,” says Lindeman. “There is a bond that only another responder understands. It is not about faith, nationality or color. It is just humanity assisting humanity in need.”

Scientology Volunteer Ministers play a unique role in the first-response community. They aid those in need, but they are also there to help the responders—helping those who help.

As an article in The New York Times described a week after 9/11, “At any time, well over 100 Volunteer Ministers from the Church of Scientology mill around the remains of the World Trade Center. On the day of the attack, they took in food to workers….When rescue workers stagger from the wreckage, the ministers, identified by their T-shirts, try to focus the workers’ minds and revive their bodies. In ‘locationals’ workers are told to look at the sky, or at water bottles on a table—anything to ground them in the present, the outside world, rather than the horror within the rubble.”

Assists, such as the one the Times described, are simple techniques developed by Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard that can speed healing by addressing the mental and spiritual factors in illness and trauma.  

In a vignette on the Today Show after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the camera rolled while one of the Volunteer Ministers performed a Scientology assist on a little Haitian girl.

“Scientology teaches there’s a connection between the mind and touch,” the commentator stated. “It’s called an ‘assist.’ In 20 minutes we watched as Nicole (a Volunteer Minister from California) took a pained little girl from frowns to giggles.”

The Today Show also described the Volunteer Ministers as “often doing the work no one else wants to….”

“Caring for those who render care allows them to continue to render care,” says Lindeman, “medical staff needing patient transport or a helping hand, ensuring an emergency operations center is clean and has supplies.”

It even extends to putting a roof tarp on the home of the county employee who is directing operations and finding out what else the family of that man or woman may need. Then they know their family is in good hands and is being cared for, so they can remain focused on serving the entire community.

And it most definitely includes assists, which can melt away the stress and tension from a day digging through rubble for bodies or working nonstop to put out a forest fire or bushfire. Providing a kind work, some food and an assist helps these first responders regroup, so they are ready to go back on the front lines or they can get a bit of restful sleep.

Lindeman notes that disasters bring out the best in people. “The gang bangers who risked their lives to pull people from under the San Francisco highway collapse, the known criminal who risked his own life and saved people,” he says. “When things are at their worst the vast majority of people are at their best. There was an alcoholic who had been in and out of jail. He joined us for months just helping folks no matter the task. And he stayed sober the entire time.”

Whether serving in their communities or on the other side of the world, the motto of the Scientology Volunteer Minister is “Something can be done about it.” The program, created in the mid 1970s by Mr. Hubbard and sponsored by the Church of Scientology International as a religious social service, constitutes one of the world’s largest international independent relief forces.

For more information, visit the Volunteer Ministers website.

The Scientology religion was founded by author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. The first Church of Scientology was formed in Los Angeles in 1954 and the religion has expanded to more than 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups, with millions of members in 167 countries.

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