Headed for Ground Zero

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 4, 2001

When a nationwide call for volunteers arose from the Sept.

Thursday, October 04, 2001

When a nationwide call for volunteers arose from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., Lenore Fries knew she would answer the call.

Email newsletter signup

With nearly five years of serious Red Cross volunteering under her belt, Fries, an Albert Lea resident, felt she could help. Her experiences range from helping in local disasters like the Red River Valley floods in 1997 that devastated Grand Forks, N.D. and the Glenville tornado, to helping with hurricane relief in South Carolina and Puerto Rico. She also has hundreds of hours of specialized volunteer training from which to draw.

This week she heads to New York City to see first-hand the worst disaster of the nation’s consciousness.

&uot;I don’t know what to expect other than to be overwhelmed,&uot; Fries said.

Working at one of the several Red Cross service centers in the area, Fries will probably distribute vouchers and payments to families of victims, business owners, residents and others affected by the attacks.

She’ll join hundreds of other volunteers, many of whom she has worked with before, to work 12-hour days six days per week during her three-week stay.

&uot;The Red Cross prefers that volunteers work about three weeks, otherwise you burn out. It’s a pretty high-intensity job,&uot; Fries said.

When she arrives in New York City, she’ll be briefed and assigned to a location. But her job could change every day, or she could end up doing the same task during her entire stay. Not knowing what will happen is part of the attraction, she said.

&uot;You learn to roll with the punches. You have to be very flexible,&uot; she said.

Delta Airlines is donating her plane ticket, and local hotels will house her, but a volunteering trip can still be a hardship. Fortunately, her employer approved the necessary leave of absence to allow her to go on the trip.

&uot;It’s a commitment that I’m serious about. I think everybody has a contribution to make in times like these,&uot; Fries said. &uot;It’s our duty to help people.&uot;

Fries said she plans to take a lot of pictures to get a good feel for the devastation. She wants to talk to recovery workers and others close to the scene. And, of course, she’ll closely listen to the stories of the people who were affected.

&uot;Someday I’ll compile all the pictures into some kind of album. It’s the personal stories you never forget, though,&uot; she said.

Fries plans to keep in close contact with the local Red Cross office to give status reports and share her impressions.

&uot;I want people back here in Albert Lea to know what’s going on. They’ll be wondering, because most people probably wish they had the time to volunteer like this,&uot; she said. &uot;In a way, I guess I’m representing the area.&uot;