The former Empire Corporate Credit Union played an integral role providing much-need cash delivery services and re-establishing connectivity.
Although its ATM network went down, Municipal Credit Union in New York City allowed members to withdraw money even if they had no money in their accounts.
“Lower Manhattan, especially back then, was very cash-oriented,” Mellin explains. “People got their money at the ATM—that’s how they conducted their lives. Municipal Credit Union decided it wasn’t going to cut off their lifeline. I certainly commend them for that decision. I think 99% or more of those funds eventually were repayed.”
A week later, the Association moved the command center to its headquarters in Albany. The following months, Mellin says the cooperative nature of the credit union movement continued to shine.
“Money came in to our disaster relief fund from all over, even internationally. The outpouring of support for those affected is something I’ll never forget. Everyone wanted to help their fellow credit union colleagues and members, even if it was a $5 donation.
“One of our employees had a niece die in one of the Towers that day,” he continues. “That certainly brought everything closer to home. What this person went through initially—not knowing if she got out or if she was alive—we went through with him. Knowing what he went through was life-changing.”
Dick Maxstadt agrees. “This experience gives you a much greater appreciation for life and how fragile it is,” says Maxstadt, senior vice president/chief operating officer for CUC Mortgage Corp., an Association affiliate.
The lessons of Sept. 11 should never be forgotten, Mellin adds.
“We need to remember that day and how it impacted not only credit unions and members, but how it impacted America. I hope [the 10th anniversary] is an opportunity to reflect on what did happen, how fragile life is, and what we can do to protect ourselves. Things can change so quickly. We need to enjoy each day to the absolute fullest because you don’t know what tomorrow holds.”
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.