“The greatest glory in living
lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.”
- Nelson Mandela
If Voices of September 11th has taught me a lesson during my internship, it is epitomized by this quote. Recently, I went to the Edison Health & Safety Fair and the Perth Amboy Health Fair in order to provide the community with information about the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program. At first, going to a health fair was an opportunity to get out of the office, enjoy the outside on a summer day, and possibly take away some freebies that are typically offered at these events.
However, my expectations of the health fair were slightly humbled. Beyond the blue skies and free hand-sanitizers at the health fairs, these events have given me the opportunity to reach out into the community, provide information on programs that may be beneficial to others, and hear people’s personal connection to September 11th. From hearing stories about the responders’ work during and after the tragedy to the grateful person who woke up late for work at the World Trade Center that day, these stories are enriching and give purpose to the outreach being done.
At the Perth Amboy Health Fair, the daughter of a responder came up to the VOICES table. She had been at the health fair for a company that collects applicants for the bone marrow registry. Due to the exposure to the debris and toxins at Ground Zero, her father had developed cancer. As a responder on September 11th, he had been treated by the WTC Health Program, but with this type of cancer a bone marrow donor is the best option. Consequently, his daughter has been volunteering for the bone marrow registry ever since to find a bone marrow donor for her father. She has taken it upon herself to be proactive to find help for her father, in a circumstance that is understandably devastating.
She will now have the opportunity to collect more bone marrow donors at an event held by VOICES every year, the VOICES Annual September 11th Informational Forum. Each year, members of the 9/11 community attend - including 9/11 families, responders, volunteers, survivors and service providers. The day-long forum includes panel discussions and presentations by subject matter experts working in the field of trauma and topics specifically relevant to the 9/11 community. That is perhaps the most enjoyable part of the health fairs- to hear these stories of survival and resilience, and to be able to provide people with information that may help them in the future.