United in tragedy, pair's bond strong
By LENN ROBBINS
Posted: 2:31 AM, July 27, 2011
The view from heaven was spectacular yesterday.
The view from heaven was one of smiles and wide eyes, of hugs and embraces, of love and hope.
Christine Spencer of Middletown, N.J., is certain her late husband, Robert, was looking down at his son and namesake, Robert, 9, whose grin was threatening to leave stretch marks on his face.
The youngster's father was one of the nearly 2,800 innocent victims killed in the 9-11 terrorist attacks that took down the Twin Towers.
Keith Pryde is just as sure that his sister, Julia, was reveling in the scene at the Beekman Beach Club at the South Street Seaport. He's certain Julia will be watching on Sept. 8, 2012, when he marries his fianceé and Robert serves as the ring bearer.
You wonder how so much death and sorrow could lead to the affirmation of life and joy that was so evident yesterday as the Yankees celebrated Hope Week by recognizing Tuesday's Children, a charity which matches children who lost a parent on 9-11 with a mentor.
You wonder how Keith and Robert, who have had to overcome grief most of us can never fathom, found one another.
But one thing is certain as you watch Keith ruffle Robert's hair while they did a battery of interviews -- this was meant to be.
"The first time we met Keith, we knew he was perfect for Robert," said Christine.
Keith Pryde saw a 2008 Tuesday's Children ad in a local newspaper looking for mentors. He says he thought about Julia, thought about society, thought about himself and picked up the phone.
Tuesday's Children paired Keith with Robert and a miracle was born.
"I couldn't have found a better mentee," Keith said. "Robert is funny, smart, full of energy, like most kids his age, just a great kid to be around -- lots of fun."
Robert, who'll turn 10 next month, believes Keith is the perfect mentor for him. Keith was honored yesterday as Tuesday's Children's 'Mentor of the Year.' Keith attends Robert's Little League games; they play video games, take trips to places such as the Liberty Science Center.
When Robert was asked what he wants to be when he grows up he replied "a mentor." "I want to help people. It feels good."
This is the mother of feel good stories. Just as Pryde was humbly accepting his award, he and Robert were awed by the appearance of former Yankees manager Joe Torre and current Yankees Mariano Rivera, Phil Hughes, Curtis Granderson, Steve Garrison and Cory Wade.
The mentors, mentees and Yankees enjoyed a barbecue lunch on the river before boarding a water taxi for a loop around the Statue of Liberty and up to the Stadium, where the Yankees played the Seattle Mariners last night.
The ride turned into a free-for-all with kids and Yankees bombarding each other with water balloons. The Yankees soaked each other with buckets of ice water.
Hughes told The Post that of the five charities the Yankees will recognize this week -- each gets a $10,000 donation courtesy of the Steinbrenner family -- he chose Tuesday's Children.
"As being a secondary New Yorker, for five years now, you feel closer to the events of 9-11," said Hughes.
Torre, a native New Yorker, choked up a couple of times yesterday as he recalled the events of 9-11, the Yankees' dramatic charge to the World Series and Game 7 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"We were reminded of a whole group of heroes -- the policemen and firefighters and EMS workers," said Torre. "We dial a number and they pick up."
Yesterday also brought to mind still another group of heroes -- mentors
Camp helps teens, young adults deal with terror trauma
MIDDLEBURG, Va. – In the morning, they talk about pain and loss. In the evening, it's s'mores and Tucked away in the lush green pastures of rural Virginia, 77 teens and young adults from the USA and eight other countries are spending this week at Project Common Bond, a camp where they're exploring their traumatic past while trying to create a peaceful future.
It's a camp that, on first thought, no one should want to be eligible to attend. Participants must have lost an immediate family member to a terrorist attack. Yet campers seem grateful and happy to be here.
"Because we've all been through something so traumatic and so similar but different at the same time, we all understand each other. And even though there are so many different languages, we all felt the same hurt that not everyone else understands," says Julie Griffin, 18, from Waldwick, N.J., whose father died in the north tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The camp is sponsored by Tuesday's Children, a 9/11 victims organization. The first camp was held in 2008 and has met each year since in different locations, including Northern Ireland. This year, it's being hosted by the Foxcroft School, which during the academic year serves as a boarding and day school for girls.
Discussions, sports, dancing
Each summer, the teenagers, many of them returning, come to discuss their experiences while taking part in typical camp activities such as swimming, sports, campfires and dancing.
Though many of the participants lost family on 9/11, other attendees lost family members to terrorists in Northern Ireland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
The participants hold discussions in the morning and take part in recreational activities in the afternoon. The discussions are serious and can be difficult.
"The kids spoke about what it meant to learn about the death of Osama bin Laden," says Monica Meehan, director of curriculum for Common Bond. "Were they supposed to celebrate? Were they supposed to worry that something else was going to happen? Does this mean that their parent actually is really gone?"
This year, the camp is centered on the concept of dignity, and how dignity is both removed and how it can be built up, Meehan says. The camp is not designed to tell students what to feel, she says, but to help guide them through discussions about what they do feel.
"We're taking our horrible experiences that we all faced and taking them and changing them," Griffin says.
For Caitlin Leavey, the camp has helped change the trajectory of her life. Leavey, 20, a New York University junior from Westchester, N.Y., has attended the camp four times, but she says her first time at the camp influenced her decision to major in peace and conflict studies at NYU.
Leavey's father, a New York City firefighter, died on 9/11 during rescue efforts. Wearing an FDNY necklace, she speaks enthusiastically about wanting to help children.
"I want to work with kids affected by violence and war and terrorism," Leavey says. "And there's so much potential to bring together kids from all around the world who have this common bond, this common tragedy."
'Same pain, same struggle'
Fadwa and Farah Sarrawi are attending Common Bond for the first time. The two Palestinian sisters from the West Bank said their father was killed during Israeli-Palestinian violence.
"In this camp, we have the same pain, we have the same struggle, we have the same conflict. And we're here together sharing our experience and our pain," Fadwa says.
Once a connection is formed at Common Bond, it's not easily broken. Griffin hosted a month-long stay for Davina Whiteside, a Northern Ireland teen whom she met at a previous Common Bond camp. The two have gone shopping, traveled to New York City and the Jersey Shore and have generally done "girl things," as they describe it.
Leavey says it's easy to stay in touch with other participants through Facebook. And for Griffin, the participants are people she can call for help, long after the last campfires have been put out and suitcases have been packed.
"Throughout the year, if you have trouble or something relating to your experiences, they're the ones that you call," she says.
"They're the ones that are there for you — even if you're not at camp."
PROJECT COMMON BOND UNITES INTERNATIONAL TEENS WHOSE LIVES HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY TERRORISM
Tuesday’s Children Hosts Week-Long Peace-Building and Conflict Resolution Forum at Foxcroft School in Virginia from July 23-30, 2011
Manhasset, NY, July 22, 2011- Seventy-seven teens from around the world who have lost a family member to an act of terrorism will join together to form an international alliance called Project Common Bond under the auspices of Tuesday’s Children, the premier non-profit organization serving the needs of the 9/11 community. The eight-day program, now in its fourth year, is changing the lives of young people around the globe through a curriculum that teaches peace-building, mediation and conflict resolution skills.
Tuesday’s Children created Project Common Bond in 2007 in response to a request from 9/11 teens who wanted an opportunity to “give back” through a larger, global initiative. The 2011 Project Common Bond participants will include young adults between the ages of 15 to 20 years old from the United States, Israel, Palestine, Northern Ireland, Russia, Spain, Argentina and Sri Lanka. The program will be held at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia from July 23rd through July 30th.
According to Terry Sears, Executive Director of Tuesday’s Children, the goal of Project Common Bond is simple and achievable: to impact the lives of young people who have suffered a loss as a result of an act of terrorism – and in doing so, give them opportunities for healing and personal growth, as well as leadership skills so they can help others.
During the eight-day forum, the young adults will participate in therapeutic group work, community-building activities, conflict resolution projects and team events designed to foster trust, healing, cooperation and communication. They will also visit Washington, DC, tour the historical Holocaust Museum and the Institute of Peace.
Ms. Sears said, “For these teenagers, the sudden, violent, and public nature of their loss becomes an overwhelming and defining characteristic of their lives. These kids feel different than most of their friends. Often, they are isolated and alone. Their experience is not something that’s easily shared with others.
“At Common Bond, they feel safe. They are suddenly shoulder to shoulder with other teens who understand exactly what they have been through. Common Bond provides them with the opportunity to take their personal tragedy and – with professional guidance from health experts and professionals in conflict resolution – turn their tragedy into strength,” Sears added.
This year marks 19-year old Julie Griffin’s fourth year at Common Bond. Julie, whose father was killed on September 11th, said, “I wouldn’t miss Project Common Bond (PCB) for the world. I love all the people involved in PCB and the way I feel there. For me, PCB is almost like therapy. Talking to other people who have lost someone through terrorism – just as I have – helps me to grow and be a stronger person.”
Ms. Griffin also noted that she has built enduring friendships through Common Bond. “Because of the last three years of camp, I have been to Spain to visit friends from PCB and this summer my best friend from Northern Ireland, Davina, is staying with me in America for a month. I hope to expand my friendships with the people I have already met through PCB and make even more friends along the way.”
The curriculum was designed by Harvard University Law School’s Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program and incorporates a second Harvard-designed program, the Dignity Model by Donna Hicks of the Weatherhead Center of International Affairs.
The symposium is being delivered by a team of professionals, coordinated by Curriculum Director and family therapist Monica Meehan McNamara, which includes Stephan Sonnenberg, a recent Lecturer on Law and a Clinical Instructor in the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program.
Kathy Murphy, Director of Project Common Bond and Tuesday’s Children’s teen programs, said, “At Project Common Bond, we are helping to build the next generation of teachers, doctors, business people, lawyers, engineers, scientists, mothers and fathers. Each of our Project Common Bond kids – no matter where they live – will have a better understanding of how to get by in a very imperfect world and the tools to do it with.”
Ms. Murphy noted that Tuesday’s Children ensures that Project Common Bond is year-round experience for the participants. Following the week-long forum, Tuesday’s Children organizes web-based symposia, blogs, chats and events that keeps the teens actively engaged in the program.
Ms. Murphy also thanked the Foxcroft School for its generosity in providing a Project Common Bond scholarship to an international participant, and for opening up their beautiful facilities for this special program.
Project Common Bond is designed and directed by Tuesday’s Children with the active engagement of its international partners. For a full list of the 2011 participating organizations click here.
Tuesday’s Children is a non-profit family service organization that has made a long term commitment to every individual impacted by the events of September 11, 2001 and more recently those who have been impacted by terrorist incidents worldwide. Since 2001, Tuesday’s Children has promoted healing and recovery by strengthening family resilience, providing individual coping and life management skills and creating community through programs, mental health support and family engagement opportunities.
About Foxcroft School (www.foxcroft.org ) Founded in 1914, Foxcroft is a college-preparatory boarding and day school for girls in grades 9-12. The 2010-11 student body was comprised of 157 girls from 20 states, eight countries and the District of Columbia. Foxcroft offers more then 90 courses, including 17 Advanced Placement classes, nine interscholastic sports and an outstanding riding program.
NEW YORK | JULY 20, 2011
9/11 Charities Look to Seize Rare Moment
By MELANIE GRAYCE WEST
The executive director of the nonprofit Tuesday's Children, Terry Sears, knows that the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is likely to draw more national attention than the day has in recent years.
After a slow couple of fund-raising cycles in 2008 and 2009, the nonprofit that serves 9/11 victims is stepping things up this year: Organizers are holding a gala with the goal of raising $250,000. Next month, they are releasing a book, "The Legacy Letters," with proceeds going to the charity. And they are exploring the possibility of a national text-to-donate campaign, which they hope will expand their contributor base beyond the tri-state area.
For many 9/11-related non-profits, the 10th anniversary of the attacks—and the anticipated media spotlight—represents a solemn but crucial moment to rally donors around their missions, expand their reach and set an agenda for the future.
"If you're not doing OK this year, next year is going to be sort of bleak," Ms. Sears said.
More than 1,800 groups received contributions to aid Sept. 11 victims and affected communities in the aftermath of the attacks, according to a December 2004 report of the Foundation Center. At the time, more than half the groups were based in New York. No data exist on the number of current charities, but those that do include everything from memorial scholarship groups to international nongovernmental organizations.
The timing for a fund-raising push might be good: Nationwide, the philanthropy community experienced a small rebound in giving in 2010 after two years of sharp declines in 2009 and 2008, according to a survey released in June by Giving USA.
But nonprofits say they face significant challenges overcoming 9/11 fatigue, especially as sharp memories of the event fade and the pool of available cash dwindles.
Jennifer Adams, chief executive of the Tribute WTC Visitor Center in downtown Manhattan, said she has heard potential donors remark, "Aren't we over that, aren't we done with that?''
Fund raising for the Sept. 11th Families' Association, the organization that runs the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, has been difficult in recent years and made more so "because $500 million has been raised across the street," she said, referring to the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.
The memorial and museum has brought in around 400,000 donations totaling about $400 million for construction, according to a spokesman. That fund-raising effort "tapped out not just our fund-raising, but fund-raising around the city," Ms. Adams said.
Lee Ielpi, president of the board of directors for the Sept. 11th Families' Association, also sits on the board of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum and said that there was an overlap in the donors who give to both organizations.
Joe Daniels, president and chief executive of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, said, "The Memorial is fortunate to have hundreds of thousands of supporters from every state and from all around the world who are helping to build this national tribute to the innocent victims of 9/11. Their heartfelt support is dearly appreciated; we could not dedicate this memorial in 53 days without their generosity."
Ms. Adams said this year there has been an uptick in giving, including first-time interest and donations. She credited a message that the organization has an established history and a clear future. The lease on the space for the Tribute WTC Visitor Center runs into 2015.
The majority of income for the nonprofit comes from a $15 admission fee for the center, which gets half a million visitors annually.
Ms. Adams knows that there will be an increased demand to visit the National Sept. 11 Memorial when it opens this fall and, in response, the center will increase the number of daily tours. It will also release a commemorative book.
This will also be a key year for My Good Deed, a Sept. 11-related service organization. Founders Jay Winuk and David Paine led the effort to make Sept. 11 a federally designated day of service. "This is now a matter of law that we hope to build on in a very positive way," Mr. Winuk said.
My Good Deed has brought in nearly $3 million in corporate sponsorships and an additional $10 million of advertising and public-service announcements this year, far surpassing past efforts.
Messrs. Winuk and Paine say they also recently experienced a small "bin Laden bump," according to Mr. Paine—a few extra calls and some increased interest by funders after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin was captured and killed by U.S. forces.
It was not a bump experienced by other organizations interviewed for this article.
The millions raised, mostly from corporations, will fund a national push that includes a media campaign featuring celebrities and others pledging to volunteer for the day in the name of a Sept. 11 victim. The campaign begins on the organization's website this month and will continue with public-service announcements and a heavy radio and TV rotation beginning in August. The week before the anniversary it will be nonstop.
Mr. Paine predicts it will take another decade to get to the point where Americans wake up on Sept. 11 and know instinctively that it's a day of service. That's a long way off, but Messrs. Winuk and Paine aren't worried about collective weariness of Sept. 11.
"There was a 9/11 fatigue in years past that I don't sense now," said Mr. Winuk. "It's hard to predict what will be in years 12, 13 and such, but what is one of the things that distinguishes us is that we are so forward-looking."
Write to Melanie Grayce West at
Tuesday's Children still a force in 2011
Photo credit: Alex Trautwig | Mets pitcher Chris Capuano at Citi Field with kids from the Tuesday's Children organization. (July 19, 2011)
It's a little bit easier now than it was 10 years ago -- time and patience and having kids to look after will do that -- but in those first few months after the towers fell Sept. 11, 2001, and Mary Perez lost her husband, it was all she could do to brave the world outside.
"The first year after my husband, I was oblivious," she said from around swarms of children at a Mets' meet and greet at Citi Field Tuesday. "I was afraid to come out of the house . . . They got us out of the house."
The "they" in question is Tuesday's Children, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the families of those who died during the 9/11 attacks. A decade later, they're still at it, and a decade later, the Mets are still involved.
About 100 children and family members were on hand to hobnob with the likes of R.A. Dickey, Chris Capuano and Bobby Parnell Tuesday to kick off the first responder alliance mentoring program, which will look to help the children of parents who have died as a result of 9/11.
"I think it's great," said Parnell, whose fire-chief father has been with the North Carolina fire department for 35 years. "I grew up around the fire department and you feel like you can relate to them."
Relating, of course, is one of the greatest concerns for surviving parents and events like yesterday's, said Michelle Pegno, makes it feel possible.
Pegno, a Manhasset resident who lost her husband, Michael Lunden, on 9/11, said the organization "provides a lot of physical, psychological and emotional support" for her and her 10-year-old son, Matthew.
Perez, who has three children -- a 16-year-old son, a 14-year-old daughter, and a 20-year-old stepdaughter -- and lives in Locust Valley, added that programs like these helped the kids feel special without feeling too different.
"It makes me feel normal," her daughter, Alexis, said. "They understand us."