15 Years & Counting: Volunteer Keeps 9/11 List Serve Running

If the print newspaper industry is in trouble, its demise cannot be attributed to Arnold Korotkin.

Every morning Korotkin pours through the New York Times. Next is The Washington Post, then USA Today. His search expands as the morning wears on, encompassing a wide range of sources. Korotkin has gone through this ritual for hours per day, every day for the past 15 years.

His focus is singular: news, updates and resources pertaining to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Korotkin operates a Google Groups list serve (9/11 List-Serv) focused on the topic that goes out to more than 5,000 people every day. The news gathering started as a kindness to a woman widowed during the attacks who he met through his then-job at the United Way of Passaic County in Paterson, N.J.

“From the get-go,” Korotkin said when asked when he knew the list serve would become a part of his daily life. “The mom who lost her husband, a woman from Wayne, it was a commitment to her and a commitment to other family members.”

The scope of the daily e-mailing has expanded along with his growing membership. A man in Wisconsin, for instance, has expressed an interest in Guantanamo Bay and so Korotkin keeps his eyes peeled. In quasi-retirement himself, Korotkin has taken the lead in a variety of other Sept. 11-related initiatives including starting a successful petition to resume annual ferries for families from Liberty State Park in New Jersey to Ground Zero and the creation of a memorial for a terror attack victim native to his hometown of Little Falls, N.J.

The list serve has no set order to story topics and he tries to keep his own opinions out of the equation — news about first responders being the lone exception. First-responders news tends to get placed at the top, Korotkin describing them as “almost forgotten heroes” dealing with a variety of issues including rates for certain cancers that exceed national averages.

The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, named after a first-responder James Zadroga who died in 2006 from respiratory complications relating to his service, is among the list serve’s more recent focuses. The bill, among other things, extends the World Trade Center Health Program Fund indefinitely, according to Congress’ website.

The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which would enable civil litigation against those who have provided direct or indirect support to terrorist activities, has also been a hot topic, Korotkin said. It was supported by, among others, four women from suburban New Jersey who regularly trekked to Washington, D.C., to advocate on its behalf. The bill was vetoed by President Barack Obama. Congress has since overidden the veto.

Outside his work on the list serve, Korotkin lives in semi-retirement – continuing to serve as an adjunct professor of sociology at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J. He has adopted what he describes as the Erik Erikson “Regeneration” model of living, seeking fulfillment in older age. That includes his continued commitment to the list serve. “I believe in giving back. I believe in community service,” he said. Other interests include a blog he writes about Little Falls, The Gadfly, and viola lessons.

Last he spoke with The NonProfit Times, on the 10th anniversary of the list serve in 2011, Korotkin said that he was committed to continuing the daily e-mailings as long as they were needed. Five years later, the commitment remains, however, he envisions a point where the daily ritual will be someone else’s. Korotkin has already explored the possibility of a neutral and unbiased individual or organization taking over in the future.

“I think it’s a community center,” Korotkin said of the list serve. “I’m realizing I’m a young man of 71, but I can’t live forever. I wonder when my time comes to pass the torch to someone.”