Los Angeles Volunteer Ministers instrumental in relief work at Ground Zero in New York; aid rescue and recovery workers, officials and victims.
ay Lorin of Glendale is used to helping others in the smaller disasters of everyday living. As a financial debt consultant, she has brought individuals back from the brink of professional and personal ruin.
And like all Americans on that sunny September 11 morning, the enormity of the terrorist attacks left her stunned.
“The disaster was so great, I think most of us had the same first reaction: ‘Is this possible? Has this really happened?’,” said Lorin from her Glendale home. The impact was especially great for Lorin, a New York native who as a child watched the construction of the World Trade Center towers five blocks south of her home.
But her shock was short-lived. A Scientology Volunteer Minister, she is better equipped than most to help in dire circumstances. She knew what she had to do in the disaster — “I had to go to New York, now,” she said — although getting to the scene was another matter.
Lorin and five fellow Volunteer Ministers could not book a flight until Friday — which was then cancelled, as were two more. The fourth flight departed LAX but left them stranded in Chicago. They finally landed at LaGuardia airport on Saturday evening, and were on their way to the beleaguered island of Manhattan.
Flying posed less problems for Los Angeles commercial transport pilot Eric Wierman, who also left for New York on Friday, when his company received clearance to make a scheduled flight to the city.
Once there, however, 36 hours of down time allowed Wierman the welcome opportunity to help on the front lines after, as he put it, days at home being “glued to the television, feeling almost completely helpless in terms of supporting the rescue efforts.”
After landing, Wierman and his captain Randy Hepner, both Scientology Volunteer Ministers, learned manpower was still badly needed in the World Trade Center relief effort and that the local Church of Scientology was managing a large volunteer effort. They and their flight attendant soon found themselves alongside hundreds more Scientology Volunteer Ministers and volunteers from the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other relief organizations among the acres of rubble, ash and smoke known as Ground Zero.
Serving the Needs
The arriving Volunteer Ministers immediately joined in the around-the-clock efforts to provide support for the firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians and rescue teams, whose heroism will stand as a monument to courage and sacrifice for generations to come.
Volunteer organizations at Ground Zero operated out of the five-story Stuyvesant School, where relief headquarters had been established several blocks from the World Trade Center. By the time the Volunteer Ministers from Los Angeles arrived, police had already put their New York peers in charge of relief operations at the school due to their fast response, efficiency and willingness to undertake any task.
“What I witnessed with the Scientology ministers I have not ever witnessed with any of the other organizations,” said an emergency medical technician from the Manhattan district. “Even the fire department in the beginning — the ambulance personnel — were not available. Who was available from the beginning were the Scientology ministers.”
The school center serviced rescue workers with food, drink, clothing, protective gear and other physical necessities. Volunteers established a relief station close to the heart of the grim operations, dubbed the “Freedom Café” by rescue workers; they conveyed needed items to crews on the huge mounds of rubble where the World Trade Center towers once stood and joined lines hauling buckets of debris from the remains of the buildings.
“These Guys Create Miracles”
While the Volunteer Ministers helped in all facets of the relief work, they also brought with them special skills to relieve stress, trauma and sorrow for those working at the site. The volunteers used the simple but effective techniques found in the Scientology religion known as “assists”. Not a substitute for medical treatment, assists address the spiritual aspects of injury, illness and emotional pain.
They include the “locational”, which helps an exhausted, disoriented or traumatized person regain awareness of their surroundings — vital during emergencies, when people most need to be alert and able to focus on the work at hand. Assists for injury and illness, when used with first aid and proper medical care, can greatly speed healing time. Other assists help individuals overcome the depression, fear or grief of loss and tragedy, or help those for whom time seems to come to a standstill after a shocking incident.
Shortly after arriving at Ground Zero, Eric Wierman gave the first of several assists he would provide to rescue workers, this one to a waiting fireman. The man’s outer protective gear was torn and his inner uniform was drenched in sweat, and his face showed exhaustion, pain and the grimness of his task. “I observed a progressive change in his facial expressions. He looked visibly different, more full of energy and clear-headed,” Eric said. “I realized that I was helping to heal this man. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to help so quickly and so effectively.”
Some assists use procedures from Dianetics, the best selling book by author and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. As one New York firefighter stated, “It [Dianetics] helped me get through the ordeal at Ground Zero and recover from the anger, depression and anxiety that I felt.”
A police official who almost lost his entire unit in the World Trade Center’s north tower was among those helped. The official had ordered his men out of the building when the south tower started to collapse; while they all got out before the north tower too collapsed, the entire experience at Ground Zero left him despondent over whether he would be able to lead his men again. After a Volunteer Minister assisted him with Dianetics counselling, he recovered from his despair and resumed his leadership role, which was needed more than ever.
“We get a lot of the credit,” said one New York police officer, “But I think a lot of the credit has to go to the people on the outskirts, such as the Scientology minister volunteers that provided us with comfort while we were down there, at a time when we needed it — probably more than most people understand or realize.”
“There were a lot of very highly stressed, worn out, exhausted rescue people here,” said a rescue chief with American Rescue Team International, “and [the Scientology Volunteer Minister] contribution to helping them to deal with their problem and deal with their upset emotions, and to have some tranquility and rest, has been a very productive and very worthwhile effort.”
As one New York Police Department medic said while directing people to the Volunteer Ministers for help, “These guys create miracles.”
While all Scientology Volunteer Ministers learn the techniques of assists, continued training has provided many with organization skills — as the first action to be taken in an emergency or disaster, in addition to first aid, is to bring order.
As Randy Hepner described the scenario at Ground Zero, the sheer scope and urgency of the disaster created a very confusing and disorganized state of affairs. Relief crews were not able to keep pace with rescue operations.
“The magnitude of the disaster was overwhelming. It was a real challenge for all relief operations to really mobilize and come up to speed,” he said.
The disorder was evident to Eric Wierman when he observed rescue workers going into the smoky, acrid debris without protective breathing gear.
“There were piles of unorganized, random supplies dumped on the sidewalk and various rescue groups rummaged for lung, eye and head protection,” he said. But such gear was in short supply and he watched in frustration as rescuers continued to go into the worst areas without it. Doctors in a triage area next to him were treating workers with lung and eye injuries. Neither they nor the Red Cross had respirators, the item most urgently needed.
Wierman set out to rectify the situation. When his inquiries led him to the American Express building, he encountered a surreal site he could only describe as “a movie set from a war zone.” Escalators appeared as molten ash waterfalls; ash-laden corridors led to dark, sooty hollows once teeming with Manhattan business life, now stocked with supplies or lined with resting firemen.
“[The Volunteer Minister] contribution to helping them to deal with their problem and deal with their upset emotions, and to have some tranquility and rest, has been a very productive and very worthwhile effort.” — Rescue Chief
Deep in the building, Wierman finally located respirators, being supplied by the Occupational Hazard and Safety Agency (OSHA). After rapidly learning assembly and use, he carried as many as he could back to triage, where he provided group demonstrations, fitting the first 60 firemen. He then brought doctors from triage, OSHA staff and relief volunteers together, organizing the activity so that a continual supply of respirators was occurring, with rescue crews receiving the lung protection they needed while they worked to save lives.
Help to the Front Line
Kay Lorin meanwhile was working with fellow Volunteer Ministers to organize assistance in other areas of need.
“The rescue operations were so intense you had firemen and other crews who couldn’t leave what they were doing,” she said, referring to those working on the mountain of debris from the World Trade Center towers or in their 70-foot underground foundation, which also housed a reinforced area known as the ‘bomb shelter’, originally constructed for potential disaster. The hope factor ran high that survivors would be found there, or in cavities among the foundation ruins.
Hepner and other Volunteer Ministers from Los Angeles helped to man the Freedom Café next to where rescue teams descended into the foundation, and served a continual stream of workers with food, cold drinks and coffee, and provided the helping assists. “They’d come out for short periods and we’d help them however we could to make the job more tolerable,” he said.
The effective assistance provided by Scientology Volunteer Ministers like Lorin, Wierman and Hepner, visible in their distinctive yellow shirts, spread by word of mouth among police, fire fighters and officials including the Mayor of New York, who acknowledged their work.
“Though many religious organizations are supplying assistance for the disaster, few are as well-organized as the Scientologists, or as evident at the scene,” read an article in The New York Times profiling the work of then nearly 800 Volunteer Ministers who had participated in the relief effort in New York. “When many volunteers were asked to clear out over the weekend, the Scientologists were allowed to stay, working alongside groups like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.”
A Spirit of Helping
Volunteer Ministers also helped beyond the immediate disaster site, giving assists to citizens throughout the city distraught over the events, or who lost friends or family. Among them was a man who, immediately after the terrorist attack, was on the phone with his brother who was inside one of the World Trade Center towers trying to escape. The brother made it as far as the staircase when the line went dead; he was never to be heard from again. Days later, the man could not stop reliving the perceptions and impressions of that moment. After receiving Dianetics counselling from a Scientology Volunteer Minister, he expressed considerable relief from his anguish; while he misses his brother, he began facing his own life with renewed hope and determination.
Over the first two weeks following the terrorist attack, more than 800 Scientology Volunteer Ministers contributed at Ground Zero and throughout New York City, some staying the entire time, others as long as they could. Among that corps of volunteers were citizens of other faiths, including social and religious workers, psychologists and others who were trained in the assist techniques.
The Volunteer Ministers emphasize that it was the work of all present at Ground Zero — the team spirit, comradery and compassion permeating the site of the disaster — that carried the rescue and relief effort forward, inspiring the firemen, police, EMTs and all workers and volunteers to rise above the horror and devastation.
As Eric Wierman noted at the time, “I am witnessing first hand and experiencing an incredible power that is generated when effective groups come together, unite, with a common purpose. I realize this is a captured moment, never to be forgotten.”
Consoled by the fact they had been able to help, Wierman and Hepner flew out of New York 36 hours later, while Lorin remained until September 24. At that time, rescue efforts were officially ended and replaced by the grim task of cleaning up the massive mountain of mangled steel and rubble that remained.
“It was time to move on, but what I experienced in New York will live with me forever,” said Lorin, who like other Scientology Volunteer Ministers, uses her skills in her day-to-day life to help others. “There is nothing I can say that can really capture what it means to be able to help others, and to do so effectively. Basically what could be more important than that?”
Help in D.C. and Internationally
Volunteer Ministers also responded at the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., where the terrorists dealt their third blow, and worked with volunteers from the Red Cross and other religious organizations throughout the nights following the attack.
Scientology Volunteer Ministers have served for years alongside disaster relief agencies, government emergency offices and paramedics internationally. They have come to the aid of tens of thousands after devastating earthquakes, including those in Sakhalin, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Colombia, Japan and Turkey; hurricanes in the United States, Puerto Rico and Nicaragua; the tidal wave in Papua, New Guinea; floods and other natural disasters. They have helped the victims of man-made disasters including the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma, and war-torn regions of Kosovo and Chechnya.
Volunteer Ministers who have been involved in one or more of these relief efforts, however, concur that none of the disasters match the levels of destruction they witnessed from the September 11 terrorist attack on America.
They responded, and will continue to respond, to cataclysms as well as to the smaller disasters of everyday living. Scientology Volunteer Ministers act in a much broader capacity on a day to day basis, using a wide range of skills to help friends, associates and strangers to resolve disputes, repair broken relationships, increase literacy of children and adults, help work associates who are failing in their jobs and countless other circumstances.
Cat Tebar, a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles, said that training in the fundamental skills used by Volunteer Ministers is provided as a public service and available to all who want to help others. “We invite and encourage anyone to become an active Volunteer Minister,” she said.
To find out more about becoming a Volunteer Minister, or for more information: phone (323) 953-3357 or (888) 443-5760; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.volunteerministers.org