Charities Stay On Mission With News Of Bin Laden’s Death

May 2, 2011       Mark Hrywna      

It’s the news that some families and survivors of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have waited to hear for almost a decade: Osama Bin Laden is dead.

As crowds gathered spontaneously overnight at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan to celebrate the news that was confirmed late last night, for some family members and survivors, it was like reliving that infamous day.

Mary Fetchet, director of Voices of September 11th, called it a “symbolic and moral victory for all of humanity,” and thanked the president, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), military forces, and all those involved. “It renews our faith that good can conquer evil,” she said, adding that the families of Sept. 11 victims and military personnel are in her thoughts.

Fetchet, who lost her 24-year-old son, Brad, in the attacks, founded the New Canaan, Conn.-based organization to assist family members, survivors and recovery workers with information and support services. Upon hearing the news of Bin Laden’s death, she said it felt just like the shock of 9/11.

“Today is a remarkable moment in United States history and the fight against terrorism. And as we approach the 10th anniversary of the attacks, we prepare to open the 9/11 Memorial to the world in 133 days,” Joe Daniels, president and CEO of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, said in a 283-word email sent overnight to supporters.

“We take this time to remember the 2,976 killed in September 2001. At the World Trade Center, their names will be etched in bronze, a tribute to our nation’s steadfast belief in what matters: our freedoms and our ability to overcome the worst of humanity with the best. We think of their families and send our prayers,” Daniels said.

“We also send our profound gratitude to and take pride in the dedication of our military. So many of them signed up to serve as their response to the events of 9/11. Their commitment, their sacrifice, reminds us of the sacrifices of the more than 400 first responders who died on 9/11 performing their sworn duty. We remain unshakeable in our commitment to remember,” said Daniels.

David Paine and Jay Winuk, co-founders of MyGoodDeed and the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, issued a statement early this morning, expressing their appreciation to members of the military, intelligence personnel and allies, “who together helped to bring this terrible person and many of his followers to justice.”

“Tonight our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims who were killed on 9/11, the families of rescue and recovery workers who have died, and those individuals who remain ill and injured as a result of their selfless service in the aftermath of the attacks,” they said.

“While a great measure of justice has been achieved with the death of Osama bin Laden, nothing will ever ease the pain and grief still deeply felt by those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001,” Terry Sears, executive director of Tuesday’s Children, said in a statement released Monday. “As Americans, we should take this opportunity to remember the profound loss they suffered a decade ago. We must also rededicate ourselves to ensuring that the needs of the 9/11 families and their children — who are the true living memorials to 9/11 — are answered, today, tomorrow and into the future,” she said.

Sears does not anticipate any changes to the Manhasset, N.Y.-based organization’s 10th anniversary commemoration of the 9/11 attacks. Seeking to provide support for the children of 9/11 and others impacted by terrorism, the nonprofit fielded calls from affected families. “I don’t think this changes in any way our fundraising,” she said. “This will raise some complicated issues for these children however; both good and bad. They will be asking us ‘Why wasn’t this done sooner?’ While this is good news, we still feel the loss in our hearts,” she said.

“We are here to serve the long-term needs of those impacted 9/11. I don’t really know how this changes our. We also address the needs of children who have been hurt by terrorism around the world,” Sears said.

The timing of the news is unique: Voices of September 11th, had planned to launch a new social media fundraising campaign this week, Give $11 for 9/11. Lisa Beamer, whose husband Todd was on Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., is not doing media interviews but is scheduled to be the commencement speaker this weekend at their alma mater, Wheaton College.

Voices of September 11th will host its annual fundraising gala in New York City on June 1, featuring former Mayor Rudy Guiliani. This week’s news is bound to bring back a lot of emotions and relive the experience for many people, said Susan Dahill, director of communications, and in recent months, the organization has been getting many calls for assistance and inquiries about its annual information forum on Sept. 10 in Lower Manhattan. “This year, it’s incredible how many people are calling about the forum, from all over world. It started by giving information and support services, now it’s expanded,” she said.

Voices has been very fortunate to have supporters stick with the charity during the past decade, Dahill said, and has seen its operations expand after other Sept. 11-related charities have closed. As other charities have closed, survivors have turned to Voices to help with a variety of issues, such as assistance with understanding the 9/11 Zadroga bill and communicating with other survivors.

“We see a lot of ongoing work we’re going to be doing to assist people who need help,” Dahill said, including creating the first online network where survivors, recovery workers and families can communicate with each other.

Empowering communities to work toward their own disaster preparedness, World Cares Center Executive Director Lisa Orloff believes the news will have no effect on their event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks or fundraising strategies.

With no plans to make a statement on the news, Orloff did say their outreach toward communities would take on a different perspective.

“What is important to us with the death of Bin Laden is the notion of retaliation. For us, we need to make sure individuals can see if something or someone is unusual,” said Orloff. “We have been reminding people how to be prepared and are encouraging people to be vigilant against potential retaliation attacks.

”Bill McGinly used to have dreams about Bin Laden. His son, Mark, was 26 when he was among those killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. His son, Sean is a screenwriter in California who made a documentary about men who lost brothers in the attacks. His son, Drew, is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.

“It brings it all back. Killing this guy is not going to bring back any of the people murdered by him but it sends a message to the world that we’re after it. It would’ve been nice, to do it in a year or two after but still, it’s never too late,” said McGinly, who is president and CEO of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) in Falls Church, Va.

The Mark R. McGinly Memorial Scholarship has about $200,000 in assets remaining. “We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do with that this year. This might be the last year to do scholarships. We’ve given away so much money and supported so many kids,” McGinly said. “We may make a big splash or divide it up for other things in our foundation,” he said.

An endowed scholarship at Mark’s alma mater, Bucknell University, will continue in perpetuity and James Madison High School in Vienna, Va., has named an annual golf tournament after him.

In anticipation of the 10th anniversary of the attacks, McGinly said he had been sending a brief letter to the president each month for the last several months asking why Bin Laden had not yet been apprehended. Amid all the debate over the federal budget and everything else going on, McGinly said he hoped to keep the issue on the front burner.

“Personally, I’ve been saying for years and years…it’s not practical to go into a country and try to occupy it or control it, etc., we need to conduct our wars now through the CIA. We need to go in, like this, and do our deal, and get out.

“We need to keep impacting it, get over this idea that we need to acquiesce, or be concerned about retaliation; that’s all going to happen anyway. Their goal is to kill people in the western world,” McGinly said.

Bob Ottenhoff, president & CEO of charity reporting and evaluation service GuideStar in Williamsburg, Va., said this might be an opportunity for people to remember how the nation came together that horrible day and the impact the charitable sector had on making that happen.

“After 9-11, there was a fleeting moment where it tended to make us all feel more connected, part of a society. It quickly dissipated for a variety of reasons. This might be an opportunity to bring back that bigger sense of unity,” said Ottenhoff.

He said that due to the killing of Bin Laden, there “might be some resurgence of people reflecting on what happened on September 11. It’s beginning to sink into people that it was not just an event but something that its now part of the nation’s consciousness, a long term effect, not just to the people and communities who lost loved ones but the nation as a whole,” said Ottenhoff. “I would hope this event could perhaps be a reawakening event that brings as together as a nation and focuses more attention on the nonprofit sector.

”Many nonprofits have a natural lifespan. One way of usefully extending that mission is by teaching lessons learned from the experience, said Patrick Rooney, Ph.D., executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University in Indianapolis.

Charities facing tragedies might not know of all of the work still being done and how the circumstances have changed. Transferring that knowledge can help the 9-11 organizations “evolve in a rational, useful manner,” Rooney said.