As Ground Zero was still smoldering and the frantic search for survivors continued, Charles Figley and Joseph Boscarino met nearby at 100 Avenue of the Americas in New York City to discuss studying the impact of the terrorist attacks which had occurred just days ago. The authors were no strangers to studying trauma survivors. Figley and Boscarino had collaborated since 1981 on efforts to understand PTSD and the consequences of combat on those who fought in the Vietnam War.
Boscarino had just started his new job two weeks earlier at the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) on Fifth Avenue and 103rd Street in Manhattan. On September 11 his PATH train from Hoboken, New Jersey, was one of the last to enter into the basement of the World Trade Center. He remembers going up the escalators from the basement to the main mezzanine level, which was extremely crowded that morning. He recalls heading to the subway tunnels at the end of the mezzanine and walking into the entrance to the C train, north-bound to 96th Street. At 8:46 AM and about 50 meters inside the C train tunnel, he heard a very loud metallic noise and felt a deep tremor on the subway platform.
Boscarino suspected a train derailment on one of the tracks. Thoughts of the 1993 World Trade Center attack ran through his mind as he boarded his uptown train. About 15 minutes or so later when he emerged from the subway tunnel at 96th Street and Central Park West, he entered a different world.
The word on 96th Street was that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers. A plane, he thought? About 10 minutes later as he entered the elevator at work, Jose, the operator, announced excitedly that a second plane had flown into the Twin Towers. Boscarino knew exactly what that meant and went to his office. After a few minutes of thought, he knew what to do. He needed to find his way out of Manhattan that morning and to call Charles Figley.
Charles Figley learned of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 after he and his wife, Kathy, attended their daughter Laura’s parent-teacher meeting at SAIL High School in Tallahassee, Florida. At the moment Boscarino was making his way to NYAM, Charles and Kathy were watching the attack on New York and Washington, DC in a state of shock and witnessed the first tower collapsing. They also knew immediately that their organization, Green Cross had better prepare for deployment of its members. Charles Figley was the founder and Kathy was the current director of Green Cross, a humanitarian organization that emerged as a response to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Green Cross was mobilized immediately; the request for their services came at noon, Thursday, September 13th, within 48 hours of the attack1.
The Figleys flew from Tallahassee, Florida to New York City, through special “mercy flight” permission, because of the Green Cross mission to provide emergency mental health assistance to New Yorkers. It was beautiful flying weather on September 16th, just days after the terrorist attacks that caused so many deaths and pain in the heart of America. Green Cross traumatologists arrived in New York City on September 16, and were housed in the NY Sheraton, a crowded floor occupied primarily by NYU undergraduate students displaced from their dorms that were blocks from Ground Zero.
On Monday, September 17, 2001 the Green Cross began to assist the Services Employees International Union, Local 32BJ, staff and their blue-collar union members. Approximately 1,700 of their 9,000 members were working in and around the Twin Towers at the time (Figley & Figley, 2001).
Green Cross members, including those from Oklahoma City, were available to provide cutting edge services and positive and supportive words of consolation and hope. The training and certification of Green Cross (Figley, 2003) members were due, in part, to the publications like the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease (JNMD) as well as Traumatology, the official journal of Green Cross. By 2001 the Green Cross and its members had learned much about how to effectively assess and treat those exposed to traumatic stressors and how best to prevent and manage those stressors, across many cultural and demographic contexts.