The events of 9/11 almost 20 years ago awakened the nation and changed how the world views terrorism, according to an American Red Cross volunteer who was on ground zero just days after the attacks.
Claudine Atalig, one of many who responded in the wake of the terrorist attacks that occurred in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, noted that the attacks startled the nation into action.
“9/11 changed the world forever. It was a turning point for our nation in how we viewed terrorism. It was also a time when our entire country was galvanized by patriotism and heroics,” she said yesterday, as the guest speaker for the 3rd Annual Field of Heroes Freedom Walk at the American Memorial Park, where several U.S. flags are posted in commemoration of those who gave their lives during 9/11 and those who continue to put their lives on the line for others.
“Our volunteers supported our first responders and those impacted by all disasters, including 9/11,” said Atalig. “I saw this first-hand when I, along with 12 others from Saipan, [were] deployed to New York, New Jersey, and the Pentagon,” Atalig recalled of her experience as an American Red Cross-NMI Chapter volunteer.
Atalig was one of the few who were stationed at assistance centers. “Day after day we met with families who were searching for loved ones and helping those living nearby cope with the trauma,” she said.
Atalig recalled one particular phone call from the husband of a flight attendant who was on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.
“…He just wanted someone to talk to, so I stayed on the line with him for more than 30 to 45 minutes,” Atalig said. She noted that the husband received a call from his wife during that flight, which Atalig said was rare as per their conversation.
“[Their] conversation was calm, so he didn’t think anything of it—just that she called during her flight. The odd thing about this conversation was that this person who lost his wife was [collected] while I was breaking,” she said.
Atalig said the husband had a 4-year-old at the time.
“I was breaking because I had a daughter who was 5 years older than theirs. I felt lost for this little girl but yet blessed and relieved that she had a father who found [positivity] in all this turmoil,” she added.
“While we all saw graphic images on TV of thousands fleeing the area, first responders including firefighters, police, and municipal workers headed into the buildings, risking their own lives and many regrettably paying the ultimate sacrifice. No words can adequately describe their bravery and fearless dedication to duty. These first responders are our heroes,” Atalig said.
The Field of Heroes, organized by TanHoldings Corp. and its charitable arm, the TSL Foundation, raises money that would be funneled toward the Northern Marianas Humanities Council to assist in their effort to help those with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
TanHoldings vice president for Corporate Affairs Cathy Attao-Toves noted in a previous interview that, according to a 2018 study from the University of Phoenix, 80 percent of firefighters report being exposed to traumatic events; over 90 percent of police and emergency medical technicians report exposure to trauma; 85 percent of first responders experience symptoms related to mental health issues; and 34 percent of EMT personnel report being formally diagnosed with PTSD, 10 times the rate of the general population.
These numbers, coupled with the geographical challenges of the CNMI, make it difficult to treat PTSD.
Yesterday’s Freedom Walk was specifically for Saipan while Tinian and Rota would be holding their own on separate dates.
On Tinian, the posting of flags was held last weekend and would be retired on Oct. 26, 2018. The Freedom Walk, followed by the 9/11 ceremony at the Tinian Veterans Memorial Park, would be on Oct. 23, 2018.
On Rota, the posting of flags was also held last weekend and would be retired on Oct. 27, 2018. The Freedom Walk followed by the 9/11 ceremony at the Joaquin Ogo Baseball Field would be on Oct. 26, 2018.