- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

A puppeteer and a one-time SWAT-team member are among thousands of volunteers offering to put their skills to work here in the aftermath of the Pentagon disaster.
"I couldn't sit here. I'm champing at the bit," said Lake Ridge, Va., resident Wes Rush, 32, a former SWAT-team member with the Mobile, Ala., police department. The terrorism "has moved people across the country into action."
Mr. Rush, a former Hill staffer and friend of victim Barbara K. Olson, has offered the government his rescue and clean-up experience. His wife, Kari, 25, offered her skills as a psychologist.
"If they want me, whatever I can do, I'm here," Mr. Rush said.
Daniel Raynor of Stevens Puppets in Fairfax is ready to perform with his hand-carved marionettes for children "whose parents didn't come home."
"Just so the kids could take their minds off of the tragedy for a while," Mr. Raynor said. "It would give them 45 minutes of freedom in their minds."
Greater DC Cares, the region's largest coordinator of volunteer services, has been compiling a list of who's willing to help and what type of skills they have to offer.
The group's president, Siobhan Canty, said about 2,000 people from 18 states and the District had registered as of yesterday afternoon, at a rate of two to 10 volunteers a minute.
One woman listed her skill as "a love of fellow Americans." Another's greatest asset is "vacation time." Truck drivers, computer technicians and a massage therapist are among the other volunteers.
"E-mails are coming in faster than we can read them," said organization staff member Kelly Kinneen.
While many are on lists waiting to help out in the D.C. area, others are already taking leave from their careers and families to put in long hours wherever needed.
"I'm working on adrenaline," said Red Cross volunteer Melissa Pancurak, 25, of Ashburn, Va., as colleagues handed out Gatorade, ice and even clean socks to rescue personnel outside the Pentagon Wednesday night.
She had not slept in 20 hours when she talked to a reporter by cell phone.
"I'm not remotely tired."
Miss Pancurak, normally a project manager for Potomac brokerage agency Bisys Group Inc., coordinated supplies and other volunteers at the Red Cross "mass care" tent.
She said she was touched to see some Pentagon employees leave their jobs in the evening and join the volunteers outside.
Cap Neilson, 57, drove up from Williamsburg, Va., with others from the Salvation Army on Tuesday night.
His group bought $2,400 worth of food to serve at feeding stations at the Pentagon. Donations from companies like Burger King and Giant Food have eliminated the need to buy more.
On Wednesday morning, Mr. Neilson cooked up sausage and eggs. For lunch, he made cold sandwiches. Yesterday was more sausage and eggs, with hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch.
"We'll stay out at least through the weekend," said Mr. Neilson, a real estate agent who in one stretch worked 36 hours straight. "The Salvation Army is likely to stay here the next two weeks."
The D.C. Kitchen — whose Culinary Arts Job Training Program students also have been cooking — received hundreds of pounds of food from caterers and companies that canceled parties and events earlier this week.
D.C. psychologists Jackie Lapidus, 55, and Suzan Stafford, 54, have cleared their private-practice schedules this week to counsel victims' families and emergency workers at the Pentagon.
"Everybody wants to do something," Miss Stafford said before heading to the site for a shift Tuesday night.
"The goal is to help [rescuers] continue to do the jobs they need to do," Miss Lapidus said. "This is going to be hard . They may walk away from everyone to cry."
Montgomery County police Cpl. Joseph Pignataro, 42, hasn't been to work since Tuesday. He's been at the Pentagon as a member of the National Medical Response Team.
The corporal, who has been trained to handle chemical attacks, is part of a decontamination team, washing down dirtied workers and Federal Emergency Management Agency dogs.
"Your grow up in this area thinking this building is impenetrable," he said during a break. "You see this destruction. It's unbelievable."
His boss, Montgomery County police Chief Charles A. Moose, is supplementing his police work with his duties as a major with the D.C. Air National Guard.
Two veterans, retired 1st Sgt. Frederick D. Gray, 76, and retired 1st Sgt. Arthur L. Peterson, 87 — who both served in the 476th Amphibious Truck Company at Iwo Jima during World War II — are helping people get where they need to go by donating $1,000 worth of coupons for free gas.
The coupons will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 9 a.m. Monday at the Upper Marlboro Shell station on the corner of Route 301 and Marlboro Pike. The amount of each coupon hasn't been decided.
Guy Taylor contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide