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MobilizeTheTroop

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Mobilize the Troop - Senior Patrol Leader Brian Congiu's account of Troop 25's 9/11 response.    

 

    As I was sitting down for dinner with my family on the evening of September 11, 2001, I received a surprising phone call from Mr. Hughes.  His instructions were for me to contact as many scouts from the troop as possible and have them meet in front of St. Vincent’s school wearing Class B uniform within in a short amount of time (30 minutes to an hour, I cannot remember).  I cannot remember exactly what Mr. Hughes said to me or what details he gave me at that moment.  I do remember the provided information being rather vague which stimulated my curiosity an imagination about what we would be doing .  It turned out that our aid was needed at the Military Ocean Terminal (MOT) on the east side of Bayonne where evacuated persons and displaced residents of Battery Park City and Lower Manhattan were being brought.


    I immediately called the members of the leadership corp. and the patrol leaders to quickly and efficiently disseminate the instructions among the scouts of the troop.  My greatest fear was that not many scouts would be able to help in this effort.  I believed that after the day’s events and the confusion, chaos, and uncertainty that still lingered, most parents would be reluctant to allow their children (especially the younger scouts) out of the house on such short notice with little information about what they would be doing.  In addition, I was not confident that enough of the scouts could be contacted or able rendezvous at St. Vincent’s in such a short amount of time.  As I rounded the corner on my way to St. Vincent’s, I was shocked to see a large mass of red shirts up the block standing in front of the school.  I was very pleased that not only scouts, but parents and other family members responded quickly to my request.  From St. Vincent’s, the group was transported to the MOT with the help of parents willing to fill their cars with scouts.


    We were brought to a large gymnasium within the MOT complex.  The atmosphere at this site was very chaotic upon our arrival.  NY Waterway Ferry boats and water taxies were already shuttling people from Lower Manhattan to the ocean terminal. Large masses of people, many appearing emotionally upset, confused, and bewildered, began to fill the gym.  We quickly learned that the gymnasium was going to serve as a temporary shelter for these displaced and evacuated people and residents from lower Manhattan.  When I informed the person in charge that the Boy Scouts of Troop 25 were present and ready to help, they seemed very glad and immediately informed me of ways we could aid in the effort to transform the gym into a shelter.


    Pickup trucks and large vehicles were constantly pulling alongside the gymnasium filled with supplies donated by many local businesses and establishments. Food, water, blankets, and various other necessities were arriving every few minutes.   I immediately instructed many of the scouts help with unloading these supplies and to begin setting up tables and stations where these item could be distributed.  Due to lack of cots, mats from the MOT gym and the gymnasiums of local schools were gathered to serve as beds. Blankets and pillows were provided by Bayonne Hospital.  Many scouts also aided in gathering, unloading, and set up of these make-shift sleeping arrangements.  Setting up phones and establishing a means for people to communicate with their families was also a priority. Many people had not had any communication with their family and desperately wanted to inform loved one that they were alright.  At the time, it was uncertain when residents of Lower Manhattan would be allowed to return back to their homes.  Many people wished to make arrangements to stay with friends and family living outside of the affected area.  For that present time, the gymnasium at the MOT would serve as their living arrangements.


    As time passed, the ferries continued to bring people from Lower Manhattan.  Displaced residents brought with them a few belongings such as pets and some luggage while other evacuated people such as those who worked and were stranded in lower Manhattan possessed only their brief cases and the clothes they were wearing.  Some of the displaced people arriving at the MOT included employees that had managed escape safely from the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings earlier that morning.  As the gym was filled with food, supplies, and beds, the focus of the troop’s aid was shifted from unloading supplies to tending to the needs of the individuals arriving at the shelter.  The scouts were instructed to disperse among the gym and to ask people if they needed anything, and to help them obtain any necessary supplies. Some people required medication such as insulin while others needed food and water for themselves and their pets.  Most importantly, the scouts were instructed to speak with and listen to the individuals.  Many of the people were very upset and traumatized by the situation in Lower Manhattan and it was quite evident by the expressions on their faces.  The scouts were very effective at communicating with these individuals and providing much needed emotional support.   Almost every person had a unique story to share and was thankful to have the opportunity to discuss what had happened to them that morning.  I was very impressed by the behavior and efforts put forth by the scouts of Troop 25 that day.


     Although I do not recall the exact time, I do remember that most of the troop stayed late into the night to continue to help in any way possible.  After speaking with a number of people before leaving, it was evident that our aid was greatly appreciated and that the presence of the boy scouts was a reassuring sign to many.

 

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