Federal front-line responders to the Sept. 11 attacks now have their own Web site, telling the stories of their efforts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency launched the new Web site Thursday to commemorate the tragedy and "share with America how FEMA and the federal government on behalf of all America responded" to help the victims and assist in the recovery effort after the attacks, said Cindy Ramsay, a public affairs specialist at FEMA.
"The work that began on Sept. 11 and continues today could not have been done without your support," FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh wrote in a message to online readers posted at the site. "Others, like those profiled in this report, may have literally picked up the pieces. But it was your prayers that picked them up and kept all of us going during the dark days after the horror."
The site features 14 stories from federal workers and volunteers involved in the response and recovery efforts and 55 photographs-all but two taken by FEMA photographers-at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon and the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
"The stories are told from an individual perspective," said Ramsay, and range from a disaster assistance employee who counseled families of Pentagon victims, to a Salvation Army volunteer at the World Trade Center to a New York Police Department emergency responder.
"FEMA tends to do...status reports on response efforts following different disasters," Ramsay said. But agency officials decided that using personal stories and pictures was the best way to portray the Sept. 11 response. "I think it's a very compelling publication," Ramsay said.
The stories show how a wide variety of agencies worked together to provide aid in the aftermath of the attacks. For example, at the World Trade Center site, organizations that FEMA worked with included local emergency response agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation units, command teams from the Forest Service and New York public school officials.
Ten workers chosen to represent FEMA's urban search and rescue teams are scheduled to travel back to the site of the World Trade Center before Sept. 11. Most team members haven't been back since rescue efforts ended weeks after the attack.
"It will be a solemn tour of the site and [should] give them time to reflect…. They will share their thoughts while they are there, but it is primarily for them to get closure," Ramsay said. FEMA is also exploring the idea of arranging a tour of the Pentagon for search and rescue team members.
Allbaugh and other top FEMA officials will attend the Sept. 11 commemorative ceremonies in New York next week, at which the names of the nearly 2,500 victims of the attack on the World Trade Center will be read.
A printed publication of the online exhibit, A Nation Remembers, A Nation Recovers: Responding to September 11 One Year Later, is also available from FEMA, but since only a limited number are being printed, the agency is encouraging interested individuals to download the publication instead.