One memory that has stuck with Bill Mellin for the past 10 years is seeing the many abandoned, soot-covered cars near Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It made you realize the people who owned those cars weren’t coming back,” says Mellin, president/CEO of the Credit Union Association of New York.
Tracy Connor, vice president of member relations for the Association, recalls the many makeshift memorials and photos of missing people on every street corner.
“There were tons of flowers, stuffed animals, and gifts in front of every fire hall and police station, and people walking the streets aimlessly looking for their loved ones,” she says. “It struck me how many people were impacted.”
Within days of the attacks, the Association established a command center in New York City to help credit unions and their members start to recover.
|Within days of the Sept. 11 attacks, the CU Association of New York had established a command center in New York City.|
Progressive Credit Union provided space, phones, computers, fax machines—everything needed to run the command center.
The Association used the center as a base to visit affected credit unions, determine their needs, and arrange services for them.
“It was an emotional experience for all of us,” he says. “They’d been through so much. It was our opportunity to let people know we were here for them. When we got to these credit unions, they told us their stories and what they lived through. They were so happy to see us they grabbed us and hugged us.”
The army restricted the area south of Canal St. to people with a good reason to be there. The New York association was granted access to this area, which had an eerie feel to it.
“It was still incredibly dark—maybe it was all the smoke in the air—and everything was closed. A lot of people were wearing gas masks or white paper masks. There was no traffic except for constant police vehicles and ambulances. Anything with a siren seemed to be going up and down the streets, but no other traffic was allowed.”
Next: Lessons from 9/11
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.