Saturday, September 15, 2001

Kentuckians help in massive relief effort




The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — A group of physicians, including at least one from Kentucky, were in New York taking a continuing education course when terrorists crashed two airliners one after the other into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

        Dr. Ed McWhirt of Fulton, a former Army surgeon, and the other physicians volunteered to help, setting up a triage station amid the pandemonium.

        Even in his years as an Army surgeon and throughout his service in Operation Desert Storm, Dr. McWhirt said he had never seen anything to match the mass destruction of lives and property.

        Dr. McWhirt had been in his hotel about two miles from the World Trade Center when the first plane struck. He stepped out on his balcony in time to see the second airliner crash.

        “We were very well equipped to take care of people rapidly,” he said. “There weren't enough people who survived.”

        Since the terrorist attacks, Kentuckians have been intimately involved in a number of ways, whether volunteers, investigators, or anxious relatives searching for family members.

        University of Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino and his wife, Joanne, arrived in the New York City area early Thursday to search for her brother, Billy Minardi, who worked in the World Trade Center. Despite a report on the Internet on Thursday that listed Mr. Minardi as a survivor of the attack and in critical condition, the Pitinos have been unable to locate him.

        “They've been to as many hospitals as they can get to, but they still don't know anything,” said Lexington attorney Brent Rice, a Pitino friend.

        Pat Thomas, a former Bowling Green city police officer now working for the FBI, is part of the international investigation for the suspects in the attack.

        Mr. Thomas had been a crime analyst for the Bowling Green Police Department before joining the FBI as a profiler with in the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program in Quantico, Va.

        Mr. Thomas said Wednesday that he is under orders not to discuss his role in the investigation, but said he is doing well and still thinks of Bowling Green frequently.

        “One thing I guess I can say is that we're safe,” he said.

        The American Red Cross in Louisville played an important role in assisting people who had relatives working in the towers. Louisville is home to one of eight Red Cross emergency call centers nationwide. Calls from 15 eastern and southern states were funneled to Louisville, beginning immediately after the news of the attack broke Tuesday morning, said Mike Crenshaw, a supervisor for the Louisville Area Red Cross.

        “Some people knew for a fact that they had lost family but hadn't been notified yet,” he said. “Some people were angry, others were crying.”

        Scott Stephens, 30, of Louisville, said people told tearful stories about their sons, daughters, mothers and fathers working in the Pentagon or the Trade Center.

        “It was one call right after the other,” he said. “They were very upset and distraught. I tried to get them to calm down, and try to let them know that I somewhat understand what they're going through.”

        Red Cross centers across the state have received an abundance of blood donors since Tuesday.

        The Kentucky Civil Air Patrol made a blood run Tuesday night.

        “Volunteer crews from Louisville flew blood products from Owensboro and Cincinnati to an airport in New Jersey,” said Col. Kolin Lester. “The shipment included a rare type of blood platelet product, which was a top priority requested by the New York medical examiner.”

        Col. Lester said a second mission took off from Frankfort at 8:20 a.m. EDT Friday. The crew was picking up medical supplies at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport for delivery to Morristown, N.J.

        In Owensboro, a 25-member group of nurses, a doctor, firefighters and emergency medical technicians, a demolition expert, and steelworkers is ready to make the trek to New York. Some have already left to assist victims.

        Greg Skaggs, an emergency medical technician and a member of the Masonville Volunteer Fire Department who organized the group, said the Owensboro residents are on a high-priority relief list that could be called into service at any time.

        Rita Kennedy is on her way to Manhattan with three other Owensboro residents to help operate an emergency kitchen for Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief.

        “This summer we've already done two tornadoes and a flood,” Ms. Kennedy said. This year, Ms. Kennedy has helped in disaster recovery operations in Somerset and London here in Kentucky, and in West Virginia.

        Four Louisville TV stations have been holding on-air fund drives to aid the disaster effort. Together the stations have raised more than $365,000 for different relief organizations.

        Three Louisville-area men who were in the World Trade Center on Tuesday returned home Thursday, still in a state of shock.

        “It was the most frightening experience because the building shook so much,” said Gary Grigg of Jeffersonville, Ind., one of three new Morgan Stanley employees who were in New York for company training.

        He, Jeff Hart of Louisville and Rob Williams of Goshen, Ky., were on the 61st floor of the south tower, the second building to be struck by an airliner.

        After the impact, the men fled down the stairs. Williams, 32, said he thought of his wife and two children. “I was terrified I wasn't going to see them again.”

        They walked more than 70 blocks to their hotel, turning back briefly to watch the towers collapse.

        “We knew we were awfully, awfully lucky,” said Mr. Hart, 46.

       



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