2 Hours Every Day

September 20, 2011       Mark Hrywna      

Arnie Korotkin spends the first couple of hours of his day online, compiling news articles about anything related to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The 66-year-old Brooklyn native wasn’t directly affected by the attacks. But what started out as one email a decade ago has evolved into what’s probably the largest September 11-related list-serv in the country.

Since early September 2011, Korotkin has been compiling links to news articles, organizations, support and advocacy groups, on a multitude of September 11-related groups and sending them all in a daily email. Information provided by his resource has made it to Congress, was included in the 9/11 Commission report, and keeps 9/11 families, or anyone who wants to subscribe, stay up to date on 9/11-related news. The list-serve has more than 5,400 subscribers, but it all started with just one.

On September 11, 2011 Korotkin was working as director of community building at the United Way of Passaic County in Paterson, N.J. He was assigned the responsibility of reaching out to offer whatever assistance was available to local families who’d lost loved ones during the attacks. Korotkin was working with a woman whose husband died. The mother of four kids, ranging in age at the time from 6 to 16. She told Korotkin that she’d stopped reading newspapers and watching television news because of the constant replaying of September 11-related images. He asked for her email address and offered to send her information about resources and services that might be helpful. “I told her, ‘Open it when you want it, or just delete it,’” he said.

Korotkin starts his day with copies of several newspapers and then goes online to gather more items from news media around the country. The initial email he sends every morning usually takes about two hours to compile. He’ll go online in the middle of the day to respond to any messages. There are other services that aggregate the news but they might be a day late and don’t capture everything, Korotkin said.

Korotkin’s background is in sociology and community organizing. He is semi-retired, still teaching some sociology courses as an adjunct professor at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J., which he’s done since 1987, and it’s the sociology angle that keeps him going. “I always believed in empowering citizens, but doing so by providing information and resources. Here it is, use it as you see fit,” Korotkin said. “I don’t try for the most part to filter what I send; I don’t put my own idealogy or point of view in it. I will send stuff from The New York Times as well as The Washington Times – which are diametrically opposed,” he said.

“It’s a labor of love,” said Korotkin, who rarely goes a day without sending at least one email with links to stories. Some of the email subscribers take what they get from Korotkin’s message and forward it to friends or family. He also gets media requests from around the world – especially so this year with extensive coverage of the 10th anniversary planned – and passes them along. The initial emails and listserv were not part of his official duties at United Way, but Korotkin just wanted to start some outreach with the dozen local families affected by September 11, and provide them with any possible assistance.

For Korotkin, the most intriguing part of his hobby is the people, those he met who are “doing great things,” such as Sally Regenhard, who championed skycraper safety issues to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Fred Schwartz, who helped designed the memorial at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J.; and Diane Horning, a New Jersey woman who has been pushing for the proper burial of victims’ remains, which are currently residing at a landfill in Staten Island, N.Y.

“It’s rewarding in itself to have met these people and been of some assistance. Often I don’t hear the impact until sometime later, when I meet someone,” said Korotkin. “It’s encouraging to see that despite loss and tragedy, people bring attention to the issues concerned in their case” and making a difference, he said.

Korotkin has been recognized for his efforts, if not monetarily, at least with some accolades. Last year, he was among the National Air Disaster Foundation’s Humanitarian Award recipients and was an honorable mention for the Distinguished Alumni Award from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work.

How long does he plan to keep this up? “As long as I’m able to and there’s a need.”

To subscribe, email AMKorotkin@aol.com NPT