Like many people Dena Mahan remembers exactly where she was Sept. 11 2001. She was in Baton Rouge not long out of college and volunteering with AmeriCorps.
But Mahan now the emergency management coordinator for League City remembers that day not only because of the attack on the towers or the memory of watching as the world most Americans knew crumbled on TV.
She also remembers the call that came after it.
Mahan like many other volunteers across the country received a call from the American Red Cross. Can you come to New York they asked?
She was in New York about two weeks later Mahan said.
”As soon as planes started flying again” she remembers.
She was one of about four people on the plane to New York she said.
Her job that first month in New York was to interview people displaced by the attack and help them find housing food and basic necessities.
The area around ground zero had been cordoned off and many people were not able to return to their apartments.
But her job included much more than that.
”Almost everybody that I saw I referred to the disaster mental health services as well because everybody needed help at that point” Mahan said. ”Everybody needed to tell their story” .
The work was grueling she said. Some days she could see dozens of people; others she could hardly get three people through the process. Although she and the other volunteers working with her weren’t therapists she couldn’t turn people away who needed to talk.
”When you’re working with individuals you go through the stages of grief with them” Mahan said.
She recalls one person who said he was alive because he called in sick to work so he wasn’t at the World Trade Center on 911. Another was a deliveryman who remembered running as a tower collapsed behind him but refusing to let go of the package he carried.
”He didn’t want anybody to trip over it” Mahan said the man told her.
It’s been 10 years now but those stories still are with her. Some are memories like sitting in a living room in the Village and watching a video of the towers falling and people jumping. Others are stories she scribbled down on scraps pieces of paper and notebooks that Mahan still keeps.
The work was emotionally exhausting but Mahan also remembers the warm welcome she received from so many in New York.
”We were just so grateful to be there to help” she said. She said she was amazed by how much people wanted to turn around and help her and the other volunteers.
Mahan has been back to New York many times since 2001 to visit friends. She goes to the site where the towers used to stand and she said she is glad to see the new construction and new tower going up.
Like so many other Americans Mahan will be in New York for the 10-year anniversary.
”What I see now is the progress not the dwelling on what happened” Mahan said. ”It’s the moving forward.”