Friday, September 14, 2001

it seemed liked a good idea......

local concilmember gives out flyers encouraging folks to volunteer, meet up at the local community center. I fill out a simple form, not knowing what will be asked of me, or if I can actually contribute, but I am here. It's afternoon, and they've been dealing with folks like me all day, who've responded, who've shown up, and they will brief me, and others, in a while. The idea is to canvas the area, this part of the lower east side, to identify folks who need food and medicine, and to help distribute it. While the organizers here didn't elaborate, the folks I am assigned to work with and I sumize that we are doing this, because folks who might already do these tasks have been diverted to the tragedy downtown. Once we get rolling, we are set up in a team of 5; 2 pairs who will work together knocking on doors, asking residents if they are ok, do they need food, etc. Each pair needs a Spanish speaking person, and a woman (folks are more likely to feel ok about opening their door with a woman present) Since I am neither female, nor speak Spanish, I don't make the first 2 teams sent out, but eventually wind up on a team, "co-ordinating". I spent the next 2 hours in the lobby of a tall NYCHA housing project on Ave. D, waiting for the pairs to finish their assigned odd/even floors, as I needed to stay put in order to (potentially) communicate with the pairs, as well as the guy on the street co-ordinating us. Turns out to be quite boring, and I wind up feeling quite useless.

Which gave me a lot of time to think. No conclusions, no breakthroughs, no insights, just stand, in the lobby, watching people come and go, some smiling or nodding, some recognizing the picture of the concilwoman on my badge. At one point, a woman and her little girl came in, argued quietly about the best place to put their xeroxed missing person flyer - thier cousin, who worked at Windows On The World. Very little emotion showing, meticulously taking the tape off the dispenser, reaching as high as she could to make it noticeable, carefully putting tape on all four sides, and then continuing on, in the elevator, me not reacting until they had gone, feeling like I was imposing on a private moment between the mother and child.

Eventually one pair came down, looked at me, said something like "bored out of your mind?" which at least made me smile. They had one household who requested help. They had seen the other pair, and assured me they would be down shortly. This pair had 5 families who requested help, they told me a few things to break the ice, but we all agreed it felt fairly futile - not sure if the folks really needed assistance, not sure if this was making a difference, not knowing what to make of it all.

Gosh, I sound like I'm whining, how awful. I guess I've just used to coming here and letting it out, so I can go on, figure out what's next, the 7pm candlelight thing?, alcohol?, emptying the cupboards and bringing them over to Salvation Army on 14th and 6th? it's been 48 hours since any survivor has been found, why did I think staring at the tv screen until 5 am would help?