Back to Article List
ANNOUNCING THE GREENBURGH 911 LIVING HISTORY INITIATIVE -LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS
Release Date: September 09, 2018
ANNOUNCING THE GREENBURGH 911 LIVING HISTORY INITIATIVE
LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS WHO WOULD PRODUCE AND HOST INTERVIEWS WITH THOSE WHOSE LIVES WERE IMPACTED BY 911
FAMILY MEMBERS OF VICTIMS, SURVIVORS, FIRST RESPONDERS, VOLUNTEERS WHOSE STORIES NEED TO BE TOLD
We want students and future generations to understand the impact 911 had on Greenburgh residents
On the morning of September 11, 2001 (17 years ago) , 19 terrorists from al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial airplanes, deliberately crashing two of the planes into the upper floors of the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex and a third plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. The Twin Towers ultimately collapsed because of the damage sustained from the impacts and the resulting fires. After learning about the other attacks, passengers on the fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, fought back, and the plane was crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania about 20 minutes by air from Washington, D.C.
The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people from 93 nations. 2,753 people were killed in New York, 184 people were killed at the Pentagon and 40 people were killed on Flight 93. Greenburgh residents were impacted. Some lost their lives. Other residents lost family members and friends. Others observed the tragedy first hand. First responders volunteered immediately after the tragedy (some later got sick). And, other residents volunteered helping the first responders.
I would like to document the impact 911 had on Greenburgh residents and would like to enlist the help of volunteers who would produce a living history initiative of 911 -as it impacted Greenburgh residents. The 911 living history initiative will be modelled after the veterans living history initiative. We have interviewed -over the years - close to 150 veterans. A half hour interview of each of the veterans is aired on Greenburgh local access channels non stop during two weekends: Veterans Day and Memorial day. We also have given the Greenburgh library copies. As time goes on the living history interviews will become more precious --students and future generation of Greenburgh residents will have a better appreciation of the role local residents played in national history.
DO YOU WANT TO VOLUNTEER?
If you would like to volunteer --produce and/or interview local Greenburgh residents impacted by 911 please advise by e mailing me at email@example.com
WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE INTERVIEWED?
If you think your story of how you were impacted by 911 should be told please also e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOME EXAMPLES...There are many others
WHAT WE WILL DO WITH THE 911 LIVING HISTORY PROJECT
We will air the interviews every 911 on local cable TV. We will provide copies of the interviews to the Greenburgh Library -where they will be archived. Will offer copies to the 911 Museum in NY and to local schools.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor
The story of Fairview Firefighter Bert Mentrasti who died from a 911 related illness
THE STORY OF ROB MATHEWS, VOLUNTEER
Assistant Commissioner William Pohlmann was killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks while attempting to rescue the victims trapped in the World Trade Center.
Assistant Commissioner had been employed with the New York State Office of Tax Enforcement for one year. Bill was very involved in the community. He ran for Greenburgh Town Supervisor on the Republican ticket, served as a high level assistant to members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators and was very involved in the Ardsley Fire department.
I grew up in Hartsdale, living at 80 East Hartsdale Ave. for the first 10 years of my life. Our family then moved to Ardsley, where we lived through my high school years.
My father owned an old-time greeting card and stationary store in Manhattan. As a child I would always look forward with excited anticipation to taking the train into the city, and being with my dad for the day at his store. I was always strongly drawn towards and fascinated by the energy of the city, and as a place to fulfill almost any conceivable dream or desire.
As an adult I immersed myself in a journey of exploration of the city, understanding how it all came to be. Are used to conduct walking tours for the municipal art society, and taught at the Queens Museum of art for five years about the social and architectural history and development of the city.
On the morning of 9/11, as soon as I heard the news I felt compelled to rush into the city to understand what happened, and see how I could help. As people were frantically rushing uptown to distance themselves from the carnage that had just happened behind them, I made my way downtown block by block through an increasingly concentrated storm of debris and ash. When I finally reached Ground Zero, the scene was quiet and calm, as one experiences in New York right after a major snowfall. All of the streets, trees, buildings, and cars were covered with inches of fluffy white ash and dust from the collapse of the twin towers. It was eerily calm, quiet, and still.
In contrast to the aftermath of a snowstorm, the temperature was warm, fires were burning and crackling all around, and the air was thick with an acrid smell of destruction.
When I arrived at the scene I began a full perimeter reconnaissance of the entire world trade center site. I then began to engage in the rescue operation. I first started moving debris by hand, as part of a bucket brigade, then by the second day I was able to make use of my welding and mechanical skills, and was given a torch to start cutting steel away, and opening up access routes into the main pile of debris. I continue working on the main pile for about two weeks, until the rescue effort was declared over, and the recovery and removal effort got more formalized through hired contractors. I then moved over to Boule Bakery, getting involved with David Boule’s operation of feeding the many workers and rescue personnel that were on site. I worked there for about two months, making food for thousands of people every day.
Sharon Balkcom, 43
In 1999, after 40 years spent living in East Harlem apartments, Sharon Balkcom found her dream house: a $240,000 condo in Winding Ridge, a brand-new development off Route 119 in White Plains. “She was so excited,” recalls her older sister, Joan Balkcom, an assistant principal in the New York City school system. “She told the developers exactly what she wanted, from fixtures to carpeting. We’d come up every Saturday to take pictures and watch the progress. She wanted real estate; she wanted to live in Westchester. And it was close enough to the City that she could get down to Wall Street every day.”
It was a typically independent move for the career-minded Balkcom. Single after a brief marriage in the 1990s, the outgoing executive lived life on her own terms, from vacationing solo to learning to swim. Her mother, Rosalee, and her late father, Nathaniel, used education and the church to keep their three children on the right path. A math wiz, Sharon got into the Bronx High School of Science (as did her little brother, Gordon). While at Colgate, where she majored in International Relations, Sharon traveled alone to Barbados for an independent-study project on women who sold goods in the marketplaces. “She wasn’t afraid to take a risk,” Joan says. “I was the one who was always afraid.”
Sharon lived in her dream house for less than two years. On the morning of 9/11, she parked her new Volkswagen Passat at the Metro-North station in North White Plains and headed to work at Marsh & McClennan, the insurance brokerage and consulting firm, where she was assistant vice president for technology. She had a big presentation that morning and wanted to get in early. Her office was located in the impact zone where American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower; no traces of her were ever recovered.
Ten years later, Joan, Gordon, and Rosalee sit at the dining-room table in Sharon’s condo, where Joan has lived since 2003. “Sharon worked very hard for this house,” says Joan, “and we didn’t care what we needed to do as a family—we were going to keep it.” It was a year before they could bring themselves to erase her voice from the answering machine. “I think about her every day,” Rosalee, 84, says softly.
They struggle to find words to express their pain and grief, which seems as raw as ever. The best thing to do is look around Sharon’s former home, where memorial quilts and photographs tell the story of a life taken too soon. Sharon belonged to Phi Delta Sigma, a sorority for African American businesswomen. Its symbol is the butterfly, and whenever Joan would find a butterfly “thing”—a pin, a vase—she’d give it to Sharon. After moving into her condo, her collecting accelerated, and, today, the condo brims with countless butterfly collectibles, from plaques to lawn ornaments.
“I have a new respect for butterflies and the freedom they represent, and how happy-go-lucky Sharon was, how free she felt to go out and do whatever she wanted to do, whatever she set her mind to,” says Joan, who wears a butterfly pendant around her neck along with a locket containing Sharon’s picture. “It’s strange for me, because I feel like I’m living her dream. I’m in her dream house. I’m driving her car.”
In the days after 9/11, Winding Ridge placed lit candles on her steps and held prayer vigils at the condo, and, in 2002, the development installed a memorial garden and bench near the clubhouse. For the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, as they do every year, the community and the Balkcoms’ relatives gather there for a memorial service. “It’s become a tradition,” Gordon says.
Of the three, Gordon has been the most active in 9/11-related causes; he is the point person for all the legal matters and 9/11-related mail they receive. In 2009 and 2010, he ran in Sharon’s memory in the World Trade Center Run to Remember, and he helped to create a scholarship in her name at Colgate. He has attended Ground Zero memorial ceremonies every September, while Joan and their mother prefer to attend the memorial at The Rising. Joan and Rosalee have never been to Ground Zero. “I just can’t go,” Rosalee says.
On the 10th anniversary, Joan will gather her nerve and go with Gordon to downtown Manhattan, for the 9/11 Memorial’s dedication ceremony. Afterward, she’ll drive Sharon’s car back up to Westchester, and, if it’s still light outside, she’ll drive past the memorial garden at Winding Ridge, as she often does, “just to look. Just because.”
THE ABOVE ARTICLE APPEARED IN WESTCHESTER MAGAZINE