World Trade Center 9/11 - Scientology Disaster Response Team Looks Back

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Church of Scientology Volunteer Ministers Something Can Be Done About It motto brought unique approach to Ground Zero rescue activities. According to the NY Times, they were one of most well-organized, and most evident volunteer groups at the scene of the 9/11 disaster.

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What we had to offer was crucial: the first responders' ability to continue their search for anyone who might still be alive

Clad in their trademark yellow shirts with the “Volunteer Minister” emblem, the disaster response team of the Church of Scientology starting arriving just hours after the first World Trade Center Tower went down. According to the NY Times, they were one of most well-organized, and most evident volunteer groups at the scene of the 9/11 disaster.

In the first few days, the Ministers dug in the rubble, distributed food, and brought cold drinks to the first responders at the World Trade Center. They organized supplies of clean masks, replacement boots and hardhats. But they brought something unique to the site: a kind of spiritual first-aid, in the form of assists techniques created by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to help an individual recover more rapidly from fatigue, trauma, and injury.

“What we had to offer was crucial: the first responders’ ability to continue their search for anyone who might still be alive,” said Rev. John Carmichael, President of the Church of Scientology of New York. “We were able to help them remain alert and aware, even when the magnitude of the disaster was overwhelming. They told us, in person, in letters, and even years later, how much it meant to them to have that assistance when they needed it.”

The techniques, says Rev. Carmichael, can be as simple as directing the attention of the individual to objects in his environment, one after another, until he is able to pay attention easily to his physical surroundings. Others are a bit more complicated, but all can be learned by anyone, of any faith, from materials in the Volunteer Minister handbook.

The Volunteer Minister program was created by L. Ron Hubbard in 1978, and the Volunteer Ministers have been responding to disasters, from earthquakes in Russia, Japan, and Los Angeles, to forest fires and bombings. But it was in the fire of the World Trade Center disaster that they were forged into the proud and effective arm of the Church, with the motto: “No matter what the problem, something CAN be done about it.”

“A Volunteer Minister is trained not just in disaster response,” says Carmichael, “but has the tools to handle everyday disasters, large and small, problems like the need to efficiently organize an activity, marital breakdowns, the need to speed healing, even the inability to study. These are valuable tools in disaster response and recovery, but helping individuals in their daily difficulties is what the Volunteer Minister does routinely.”

Since September 11, 2001, the Church of Scientology Volunteer Ministers have become a huge and effective international arm of that religion, with more than 75,000 trained responders internationally.

Over a period of months, thousands of Volunteer Ministers took tours of duty in the Pacific in response to the Tsunami, working in Nepal, Indonesia, and other Asian Countries, and after Hurricane Katrina hundreds of other Ministers rushed to Mississippi and Louisiana, and are still working on the clean-up there. They have responded to the effects of terrorist attacks in London, Russia, and elsewhere.

As a result of their work on 9/11 at the World Trade Center and other disasters, The Church of Scientology Disaster Response Network now serves along with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, as one of the 40 or so members of the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters.

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Sharyn Runyon
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