91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
Help for the Families
By Amy Miller

A photo of Osama bin Laden and a diagram of his network were on display at a recent press conference in Charleston, South Carolina. The press conference was held by family members of victims of the September 11 attacks. The families are filing a lawsuit against officials in Saudi Arabia and institutions charging them with helping bin Laden finance his terrorist activities. (Photo: Lawrence Jackson/AP WideWorld)

Focus on the Children of 9/11
By Amy Miller

Living without her husband, John, isn't easy for Mary Ellen Salamone. But it's even harder for their three children, Alex, 5, Aidan, 4, and Anna 3.

"They have their good days and their bad days," said Salamone, who lost her husband in the World Trade Center attack. "But the road they face won't be easy. They're completely helpless, and the hardest part is seeing the pain in their eyes every day."

Salamone said she worries that on the anniversary of September 11, her children will have to relive the loss of their father over and over, especially at school. "You walk into schools, and you see posters of the Twin Towers burning, hanging on the walls," she said. "It's absolutely horrific for any child who lost a loved one."

She works with Families of September 11, an organization founded by victims' family members, to protect children from these painful memories. "We want teachers and schools to be aware that our children are still grieving," she said. "We want schools to emphasize the positive things that happened that day, and how people helped one another. They can't just dwell on the horror of it."

Hundreds of charities and organizations are trying to make life easier for the more than 3,000 children who lost loved ones on September 11, and not just in schools. They're offering everything from free camping trips to free dance lessons to free counseling, and it's help they really need.

Kelly Hughes directs the Comfort Zone Camp, which specializes in helping children who have lost loved ones. "Children grieve differently than adults," Hughes said. "Sometimes they try to be adults and hide their feelings, but they need special attention. We give them a chance to talk about how they feel with other children who are going through the same thing."

Sometimes, however, charities can't help all the children they'd like to. The Ted Thomas Dance Foundation in New York City offered free dance lessons to victims' children, but only four actually participated.

"I had to turn away hundreds of children because they were not eligible," said Ted Thomas. "We could only accept children whose mother or father had died. But there were so many more children who had been affected and needed our help. We just couldn't help them all."

Even children who did not lose a parent or family member on September 11 need help. A recent study found that 90 percent of all New York City school kids still need counseling to deal with the events of September 11. Now, some New York politicians want the President to create an Office for the Protection of Children to address the special needs of children.

"We have to recognize it as a public health challenge," said New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
When Monica Gabrielle heard that terrorists had attacked the World Trade Center, she desperately tried to reach her husband, Richard. He was an insurance broker who worked in the south tower. At first, she thought he had survived. "A co-worker said he saw Richard outside the building," she said. "But we never heard from him again. Every day I wake up wondering what happened to him."

A year later, Gabrielle and her 24-year-old daughter still have trouble coping without him. They are not even sure they will attend a one-year anniversary ceremony to honor those who died on September 11. Monica said she doesn't think she'll have the strength to attend.

"We'll wait for the day and see what happens," she says.

Many of the families of 9/11 still struggle daily with their losses, both emotional and financial. Grieving family members like Monica have many places to turn to for help, whether they need financial assistance, counseling, or just a day to relax and have some fun. But some family members said that although they appreciate the help, nothing can ease their suffering.

"I'm up and functioning again, finally," said 30-year-old Christina Regenhard who lost her brother in the attacks. "But this is a pain that does not go away."

Charities do what they can to make the lives of family members a little easier. Some like the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Twin Towers Fund, and Windows of Hope, help families cover everyday expenses. Others like Safe Horizons, Project Reach, and Project Liberty provide emotional support and counseling. Some charities like Adam's Angels offer families free tickets for trips or sporting events.

Families can get the largest amount of financial assistance through the U.S. government's Victim Compensation Fund. Although some families could be awarded millions of dollars, many have decided not to apply for help. That's because they must promise not to sue the airline industry to get money from the fund.

Monica says that's why she will not apply for an award. "It's hush money," she said. "We want answers from the government about what really happened. Sometimes you have to be able to take people to court to find out the truth."

Monica and many others like her have decided to turn their grief into political action. Families have founded groups like the Families of September 11, the WTC United Family Group, and the Pentagon Angels. While these groups offer support, they also give families a political voice in many things from planning memorials to improving airline security.

Monica helped found the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, which has asked President Bush to appoint an independent commission to investigate the attacks. The campaign also wants the commission to recommend ways to build stronger skyscrapers so they can withstand future terrorist attacks.

"We have to prevent something like this from ever happening again," says Monica. "This is an opportunity for us. And how we use this opportunity says a lot about who we are and what we value."

Do you think these kids are heroes? To nominate a hero into our Hall of Heroes, click here.