The International Association of Fire Fighters and its two New York affiliates have started distributing the remaining proceeds from the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund they created on September 12. The $111 million raised by the non-profit fund is earmarked for the families of the 344 fire fighters who were killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center on September 11.
The 9-11 Fund directors -- composed of the presidents and treasurers of the IAFF, Uniformed Fire Fighters Local 94 and Uniformed Fire Officers Local 854 -- voted this week to disperse checks for $278,703.56 to each of the families of FDNY fire fighters and a fire patrolman who were killed in the tragedy.
This brings the total assistance provided to each of the families to $323,703.56, according to IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger, who serves as president of the 9-11 Fund board of directors. Any additional donations received by the 9-11 fund will be disbursed at a later date.
"The outpouring of support and assistance from fire fighters around the world, from the corporate community, from celebrities, and from the public has been overwhelming," Schaitberger said. "We thank the American people from the bottom of our hearts for their generosity and their love."
More than $5 million in mailed donations were sent to Firehouse.com's offices and forwarded to the IAFF, and tens of millions more came in directly to the IAFF's bank account through wire transfers from departments, organizations and individuals who learned of the Fund or coordinated through the Web site.
"Firehouse.com and its visitors played a key role in the success of the Fund," Schaitberger said. "Throughout, the staff of the site has worked hard to inform its visitors and others outside the fire service to help raise significant funds to benefit the families of our fallen New York firefighters and paramedics."
Through the site, the Fund was publicized on television and radio stations across the country, including the syndicated "Don and Mike" show out of Washington. A full page ad, donated by international advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, appeared in USA Today and other publications. Firefighters across the world fanned out in the days and weeks following September 11 to raise money on street corners, in malls and elsewhere in the communities.
"Amid the controversy that has been associated with so many of the September 11 funds, we have worked quietly and without fanfare to provide significant support to the widows, families, and loved ones of our fallen New York fire fighters," Schaitberger said. "Through boot drives and many other activities, firefighters have worked on behalf of these families with the same single-minded determination that was demonstrated by the thousands of New York fire fighters who risked or gave their lives at the World Trade Center."
"No amount of money can repay these widows and families for the sacrifice they’ve made," said Local 94 President Kevin Gallagher. "We can only try as best we can to help them go on with their lives, despite their tremendous and permanent loss."
Local 854 President Peter Gorman said the union was able to act rapidly to assist the families. "I am proud that our 9-11 Fund was able to move quickly to put much needed funds in the hands of the families," he said. "Within 10 days of the September 11 tragedy we provided each family with $10,000. We followed up with $10,000 more within three weeks, and we gave them each $25,000 just before Thanksgiving."
More than 70 percent of the $111 million raised by the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund has been collected by fire fighters and paramedics who belong to the IAFF across the U.S. and Canada. In some cases, citizens have dropped checks as large as $10,000 into the boots used by fire fighters in their fund drives or sought out local fire fighters in their fire stations to hand over donations. Since September 11, local affiliates of the IAFF have regularly sent in checks amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, Schaitberger said.
Major corporations, retailers, individual donors, websites, and other labor unions also assisted and contributed to the 9-11 Fund. From the very beginning, the 9-11 Fund directors made a firm decision that they would conduct no advertising, solicitations, or marketing activities to promote the fund.
Schaitberger noted that, in the end, the Fund’s expenses will amount to less than one-half of one percent because the Fund used IAFF staff to manage the project and much of the outside assistance to the fund was provided on a pro bono basis.
The IAFF and its two New York local unions are grateful for the support of a concerned public, but they also want to remind Americans that there were many other victims of the tragedy who also need help and support.
"We cannot forget the thousands of innocent victims who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in a rural field in Pennsylvania. Nor can we forget the tens of thousands of workers who lost their jobs because of the economic impact of the terrorist attack," Schaitberger said. "We are all in this together and we must make sure that their families receive the support that they need."