Tuesday's Children began in Manhasset in the wake of September 11, 2001, and while it continues to shepherd the children who lost a parent in the attack on the World Trade Center, last year the organization launched an international project.
Like all non-profits, Tuesday's Children is negatively impacted by the economy. Executive Director Terry Sears said they have pro-actively cut their budget to weather the economic downturn.
Why is Tuesday's Children still relevant? There were 110 children born after 911, Sears explained, who are only now 6 or 7-years-old and just now coming into an understanding of their loss. The mentoring program is growing, she said, in fact there are 62 children involved with five on the waiting list. Sept. 11 is often in the news and makes them feel uniquely different from others in their class or neighborhood. Tuesday's Children brings them together in the comfort and safety of others with the same experience.
Tuesday's Children has 1,100 registered families, including 3,000 children (approximately 76 percent of all children who lost a parent on 9/11), and, according to Sears, has created an unprecedented level of trust with these families, a trust that experts now view as a prerequisite to ongoing delivery of effective service. If family member feedback is needed, Sears noted proudly, there is probably no one better suited to do so than Tuesday's Children.
"And Tuesday's Children is now a valuable resource for insight into the timeline for recovery after a traumatic loss that occurs from a wide scale terrorist attack. In the event of another attack, at the very least," Sears said, "they can step in as an invaluable resource for those assisting other families."
This is noteworthy because at its inception, in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks, the United States had never been faced with a tragedy of that nature and magnitude, and no one really knew what the children/families needs would be. Tuesday's Children partnered with leaders in the fields of child development and family advocacy, and worked closely with those they sought to serve. Today, their suite of 9/11 Family Programs and Services includes mentoring, educational and career guidance, leadership training and life management programs. Additionally, they provide referrals to experts well versed in specific needs and issues not provided by the organization.
As an outgrowth of their founding mission, to meet the needs of individuals directly impacted by the events of 9/11, they have launched two additional programs.
One is for rescue and recovery workers - more than 39,000 in number, these workers, on average, remained for 171 days at Ground Zero, 40 percent arriving at the site when the air and environment were most toxic.
This past summer, recounted the executive director, Tuesday's Children launched their second program, Project Common Bond (PCB), initiated by the 911 teenagers themselves who were involved in the organizations programs. Their hope was that their past could help them change their future. They wanted to take their painful loss and do something for others similarly impacted, said Sears, "for instance, children in Israel live with terrorism each and every day. This connection and community building experience empowers these children to look outside themselves and find better ways to deal with their issues. Kids from the international community immediately bonded with each other. This can only be helpful in today's world."
Through programs such as Project Common Bond, Tuesday's Children is able to provide opportunities for the 9/11 families to fully heal by helping others. The end stage of grief, explained Sears, is found in the shift from the focus on oneself to the empowerment of being able to help others. Sears said the project, allows the children to gain perspective on their loss through others who have suffered a similar tragedy.
The teenagers produced a PCB Proclamation, a statement signed by 48 teenagers from six countries (United States, Spain, England, Northern Ireland, Israel and Liberia) participating in the program, that states: "We believe that with Project Common Bond we can make a difference from our own experiences and work towards peace. By coming together and making new connections we can gain a better understanding of ourselves and others. Through Project Common Bond we may aid in resolving global conflicts and make change for generations to come." Sears reiterated that these teens had one thing in common - the loss of a family member due to an act of terror. Their experience will continue throughout the year as Project Common Bond continues to engage them through online blogs and seminars.
That this organization grew out of the extensive losses in Manhasset is a testimony to the community and the loyalty of its donor base. Around 411 organizations sprang up following the attacks on September 11, 2001 and only a handful, about four or five, remain and several of those do not deal with family issues. Most are involved with the New York City Memorial at Ground Zero.
According to Sears the memorial will cost anywhere from $750 million to $1 billion with an annual budget of up to $60 million projected. "Bricks and mortar are important," said Sears, "but let's not forget the human element. Tuesday's Children supports the families impacted by the attack and has a budget of $1.2 million, which even in this climate is challenging." Tuesday's Children, located in Manhasset on Plandome Road, is always looking for volunteers.
In their literature Tuesday's Children states, "In any tragedy, we memorialize those who are lost; but, more importantly, we must not lose sight of, and do all that we can for, those who are left, for they are the living memorials."