Terror victims struggle through charity maze
Published: Monday, October 29, 2001
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2012 23:06
Families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center attack have spent the past weeks in continued terror. They have been standing in long lines, filling out 10 pages or more of forms and reports, hearing that their names have been lost from the databases in the shuffle, deciphering through the many numbers of agencies and, most important, the vast majority have not yet seen even a penny from the Red Cross or other charitable organizations.
The deadlines, rules and requirements are confusing. Rather than assist the familes, these regulations simply create a new maze for them. In this time of need for our citizens, the associations that are supposed to be supporting those who have faced losses are instead only causing more problems.
Why can't they do what they are supposed to do when we really need them to get their act together? Of course, these organizations have given money to grass roots organizations, they have approved the payment of some preliminary bills and costs and the money is supposedly on its way.What they have not done, however, is create a way for these families to access the charitable organizations in a one-stop fashion. These families have enough to worry about — finding the assistance they need should not be another struggle. Yet it seems to be.
The Red Cross has been trying to distribute more than $530 million. However, hundreds of families have not even heard their first contact from the organization. Internally, the Red Cross has had conflict and confusion, likely the cause of the resignation of Dr. Bernadine Healy from her position as president of the organization.
Supposedly, the organization was going to create a trouble-free relief program for the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. Three months of living expenses were to be distributed to each family, checks were supposed to be mailed within 48 hours, and families would only have to complete a simple one-page application. Obviously, the truth is much to the contrary.
Applications and forms that have been completed and turned in have been held up for weeks because of several problems. The Red Cross cannot confirm that the applicants are in fact related to victims. Records are disorganized and are often even lost from the database. Management is confused and inconsistent, and the turnover among volunteers leads the veterans with the ongoing job of training rookie volunteers rather than focusing on the problems at hand. Perhaps part of the blame could be placed on New York City officials who have refused to provide the list of the dead and missing to the Red Cross, stating that it is not yet complete and fully accurate.
The problems within the philanthropic community do not end with the Red Cross. A decentralized, unorganized force of charitable organizations and associations have not been able to properly handle the need for prompt, accurate and effective reaction and service to this crisis. Although they may have generous spirits, the compassion and sympathy is not yet being felt or experienced by thousands of family in need of assistance.
So how do we fix this situation? Someone needs to be watching these organizations. Billions of dollars have been raised, yet there is not a sovereign arbiter watching over the entire system as a whole. Each organization may do as it desires and a state of anarchy clearly exists among the charitable societies. Although some prefer the government to stay out of our business, in situations such as this the government needs to be given and accept a role to organize, manage and guide the charitable organizations.
People need this money. We cannot allow the terrorists to win. They want us to be unorganized, ineffective, frivolous and unable to assist our own citizens. We must overcome this, regardless of what it takes. Otherwise, these families will continue to be victimized by terrorists and the evil people who caused this will win.
The Red Cross, the government and the other charitable organizations must not allow this — they must get their act together.
Sara Marie Eichenberger is a senior in military science/international relations. She can be reached for comment at email@example.com.