PA Crisis Intervention Team Recognized for 9/11 Efforts

For a group of dedicated people in Pennsylvania, Sept. 11 meant dealing with not only their own fear and shock over the crash of Flight 93 in Somerset County, Pa., but trying to help the victims and their families in New York.

For their efforts, Pennsylvania's Keystone Crisis Intervention Team (KCIT) and its coordinator, Mary Claire Mullen, have been recognized by the National Organization of Victim Assistance (NOVA). NOVA honored Mullen and team members recently at a meeting hosted by the Victims Resource Center in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County. Mullen is the clinical director at the center, which provides counseling and advocacy for local victims of crime.

"Three years ago we recognized the need to have specially trained teams of counselors ready to respond if a community crisis occurred," Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) Chairman Tom Corbett said. "No one ever expected that they would be called upon to respond to a crime as horrific as the attacks that took place on Sept. 11. I think I speak on behalf of all victims and all Pennsylvanians when I say 'thank you' for the comfort, support and love you provided to those who were injured and to those who lost loved ones in the attacks."

PCCD's Victims' Services Advisory Committee created the crisis-response team in 1999 after determining that there was a need for specially trained teams in the Commonwealth to help victims and communities after incidents of mass violence. Most of their assignments are homicides that impact an entire community. KCIT services are available free of charge to all communities in Pennsylvania.

Nearly 40 victim advocates from across Pennsylvania joined with NOVA from September through January to help families of the New York City attacks. Another dozen advocates traveled to Somerset County to aid families of victims of Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville.

Pennsylvania's advocates provided aid for four months at Liberty State Park, a family service center that was established in New Jersey, across the river from the Statue of Liberty, for victims and their families. There, crisis-intervention team members met families of the injured, dead and missing, and offered personal support as they escorted them to all the services being offered. Advocates connected victims to the American Red Cross, banking services, crime-victim compensation, Social Security and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. They also escorted the families on boat trips across the Hudson River to Ground Zero so families could hold prayer vigils and memorial services.

"I had an overwhelming sense of pride for the crisis-intervention teams from Pennsylvania who were in the trenches doing this great work when our team was so new," Mullen said.

"Their commitment was incredible. Nothing will erase the pain for those who have lost a loved one, but I think that having counselors there to talk with them and to help them get what they needed made the situation a little easier," she added.

In Somerset County, KCIT members worked with local victim services and mental-health programs, as well as the American Red Cross and clergy, to provide support for victims' families and the Shanksville community. They helped with victim-compensation claims, assisted local clergy in planning prayer vigils, and provided programs for children and adults who were struggling to understand the tragedy.

"Pennsylvania's Keystone Crisis Intervention team was invaluable when NOVA responded to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11," said Marlene Young, executive director of NOVA. "Not only did the team do an outstanding job of providing services to the loved ones of those who died on the airplane that crashed in Somerset county, it also rotated team after team of skilled responders into New York and New Jersey to assist the survivors of the World Trade Center attack. We could not have accomplished the massive mobilization of crisis responders over the last nine months without KCIT's dedication and commitment."

Also, in December and January, KCIT joined with the Pennsylvania Sept. 11 Victim Assistance Program, also funded through PCCD, to help families in eastern Pennsylvania who lost their jobs in New York City as a result of the attacks. Those victims were given information about financial assistance and job-training programs.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Sept. 11 Victim Assistance Program, visit www.state.pa.us, PA Keyword: "Sept 11 victims," or call the toll-free number (866) 328-2800.

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