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Pennsylvania Masons' Contributions to 9-11 Disaster Fund Return to Aid Fire Co. and Families of Victims with PA Ties

During the several months after the terrorists' attacks on September 11, 2001, Pennsylvania Masons contributed nearly $318,000 via the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's Masonic Charities Disaster Relief Fund to aid victims and their families. Marvin A. Cunningham, Sr., R.W. Grand Master, reported that as of mid-July of this year, an amount equal to nearly two-thirds of those contributions has gone to assist the first fire company on the scene of the Flight 93 crash near Somerset and to help families of victims with ties to Pennsylvania Masons.

Quickly after 9-11, when grand lodges, including Pennsylvania, stepped forward to procure assistance for those in need because of the disaster, a system was established in which the Masonic Service Association served as a collection point for moneys from grand lodges, recorded the contributions, and forwarded them to the Grand Lodge of the State of New York to administer and disburse assistance through the WTC Relief Fund that it had established.

In forwarding the contributions from Pennsylvania Masons, Donald L. Albert, R.W. Grand Secretary, suggested known cases where financial assistance was needed and asked that they receive help if they met established criteria. They did meet the criteria and the Grand Lodge of the State of New York forwarded the assistance:

$100,000 was given to the Stoystown Fire Co, the first fire company to arrive at the scene of United Flight 93 near Somerset, PA. The firemen forsook their personal lives to assist in the long process of searching for the remains of those who were on that ill-fated flight. They closed their businesses, took leaves of absence without care or concern for themselves and their families. Those hardworking volunteers rely on outside contributions to continue to provide vital services needed in their communities and wherever needed in times of tragedy.

Another $100,000 was divided among three worthy cases:

To a widow and one daughter of a victim who worked on the 82nd floor of the World Trade Center Tower No. 2. The victim was the nephew of a past master of a lodge in western Pennsylvania.

To the widower of a flight attendant on one of the airplanes that crashed. The victim was the daughter of a now-deceased Mason of an eastern Pennsylvania lodge. The Mason's wife had died while a resident at the Masonic Homes at Elizabethtown of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1998.

To a 24-year-old survivor who worked in the World Trade Center Tower No. 2. As he was trying to leave the building, he witnessed the horrors of masses of victims trying to escape. He wanted to help in the evacuation, but couldn't because of the crush of people who were trying to get out. His father, a Mason of a Harrisburg area lodge, explained that his son cannot discuss that day and that fear keeps him from going to the city to work. It is projected that his counseling and therapy will continue for at least two years.

Also, immediately after the Sept. 11 disaster and before establishing the special Masonic Charities Disaster Relief Fund, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania sent $10,000 to assist the brethren of the Grand Lodges of New York and Virginia in their recovery programs.

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