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Tragedy Brings Out New Yorkers' Spirit of Volunteerism - 2001-09-13

New Yorkers responded quickly and overwhelmingly with offers of blood, money and emotional support for the survivors, their families and other New Yorkers after Tuesday's terrorist attack.

Hundreds of New Yorkers were standing by makeshift tables outside at the American Red Cross, signing up to volunteer on the second day after the attack.

Leslie Hunt, the chief information officer for the American Red Cross of Greater New York, was on the scene since early Wednesday morning. "We are still getting a steady stream of volunteers, starting Tuesday morning at 9 AM when the first pictures were on the news, they have been non-stop," he said. "No one can ever say anything bad about New Yorkers again or that they are cranky or that they are not friendly because they have come out in the thousands to help us and people here are just [asking] 'What can I do to help?' People are trying to give blood, even though they themselves are not that well physically. But they are just [doing] whatever they can do. We have people going out getting large collections for food literally going up and down the streets to all the restaurants."

Some people have offered to help locate family members who might have been in or near the World Trade Center when it collapsed. Other have wanted to reach out to everyday New Yorkers, like themselves, as they try to cope with the emotional trauma of Tuesday's events. Michael Zorick is soliciting donations of food, money and other material support. "We've had people asking where they can go to donate to donate blankets, where they can donate sleeping bags, sleeping bags, socks, where they can donate food," he said. "They've been donating money here."

Mr. Zorick is especially moved by the spontaneous compassion expressed by some of New York City's schoolchildren. "We literally had a six-year-old kid who broke into his piggy back and gave us $163," he said. "A fourth-grade class at the Calhoun School went out and sold lemonade and raised $500. And when you see kids come down here, 13-year-old kids who want to volunteer, 16-year-old kids who want to do anything to help, you realize how this tragedy has touched the lives of people just across the board."

First aid instructor and fellow volunteer Jose Vasquez is collecting funds for firefighters and overnight shelters. He offeres this explanation for the Wednesday's overwhelming turnout of volunteers. "I think everybody is watching this on TV and it's such a big disaster, I can't think of anybody in the city who wasn't affected," he said. "So I think everybody in the city just wants to do their part." As the impact of the crisis deepens and the casualty numbers continue to mount, one thing is clear, many New Yorkers and, indeed, many Americans will continue to seek a part to play in the months ahead.