Pulling Together

June 17, 2002
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Local stories abound in the aftermath of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

Most, thankfully, are positive. City and county officials today stand ready to respond if needed during the recovery efforts on the East Coast. The visions of firefighters and police officers risking their lives — and many losing them — flicker across our consciousness even after the TV screens have gone dark.

Those images hit home harder for some than others.

Grand Rapids Police Chief HarryDolan and Fire Chief MichaelBurton have helped form a Metropolitan Task Force that is ready to head to the affected areas.

“I know of no police officer nor firefighter who doesn’t want to go and help,” Dolan said. “It is their life.”

Burton said the fire department is “similarly eager” to help, and he said if the call comes, it may be as early as this week. He explained that in his experience in working with disasters, local and area resources are most often depleted and exhausted after the third or fourth day.

Mayor JohnLogie and City Manager KurtKimball are fully supportive of the effort.

County Administrator DarylDelabbio said the area’s response to the tragedy has been outstanding.

“The mobilization of the many people involved on very short notice was impressive and gratifying and something in which citizens of this county can take comfort,” he said.

  • Also impressive was the outpouring of support from the business community and general populace.

The Steelcase Foundation already has committed a $100,000 gift to the American Red Cross for emergency assistance to the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Last Friday, Alticor Corp., parent of Amway, was scheduled to donate $50,000, which was in addition to a similar gift given earlier this summer for disaster relief.

But it’s not just the large donations that are defining West Michigan’s caring attitude. Businesses like Clear Channel Radio have representatives out of the studios collecting money for disaster relief. Their remote radio broadcasts have given citizens the chance to donate thousands of dollars in $5 and $10 increments.

Bank One is matching its employees’ donations dollar for dollar.

Hackley Hospital offered the first corporate pledge from Muskegon County when, as part of its kickoff for the annual United Way campaign, President and CEO GordonMudler said the hospital would contribute 5 percent above and beyond all employee pledges to the September 11th Relief Fund, which is being administered by the United Way of America and the New York Community Trust.

Mudler said the hospital has an $80,000 United Way goal this year and, if met, would mean another $4,000 for relief efforts.

“This contribution will be made on behalf of all Hackley Health associates, medical staff and board members in honor of all those affected by this national tragedy,” he said. “As health care professionals, we particularly honor with this donation the emergency response and medical personnel who perished while heroically acting to serve others. Their actions serve as a reminder of the noblest intentions of our profession.”

Persons interested in donating to The September 11th Relief Fund can contact their local United Way office or, in many cases, community foundation.

“We’re aware that people in our community have been touched by this tragedy,” said DianaSieger, president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. “This is certainly a time for us to join together and help those who have suffered most.”

  • But not every experience has been positive during this national tragedy. In fact, as the days crept by, more and more stories emerged that ranged from subtly preying on a concerned public to outright fraud.

The Internet, of course, was the vehicle of choice for many who were asking for credit card numbers when seeking donations to disaster relief.

But door-to-door solicitations by some claiming to be collecting on behalf of the Red Cross also were causing concern.

“Although there are a lot of good people out there who may have taken it upon themselves to collect for the Red Cross, we have no way of knowing this or tracking donations,” said KellyCampbell, communications director of the American Red Cross of West Michigan. “This kind of disaster opens the way for persons to misrepresent the Red Cross. It is a very unfortunate way to take advantage of people’s good nature.”

The best ways to make donations to the Red Cross are via www.redcross.org or by calling (800) HELP-NOW or by sending a check to American Red Cross, 1050 Fuller Ave. NE, Grand Rapids MI 49503.

Sometimes, however, persons who may be taking unsavory action during a national tragedy are identified.

Attorney General JenniferGranholm is taking legal action against nine Michigan gas stations accused of price gouging at the gas pumps in the wake of the attacks.

She said the stations were charging “grossly in excess” of the market-based price at which gasoline would normally be sold.

What’s grossly excess?

There was a station in Warren accused of selling gas for $5 per gallon on Tuesday and/or Wednesday. One in Constatnine was selling for $4.10 at that time.

Locally, stations in Kalamazoo and Mattawan were selling gas for just under $4 per gallon.

“Price gouging in the face of such a colossal national tragedy is immoral, un-American and clearly illegal,” Granholm said. “My office will continue to take action against retailers who are blatantly exploiting our national pain in the name of profit.”

Granholm said her office fielded “thousands” of phone calls from outraged consumers across the state.

“Consumers are outraged — and they have every right to be. For any retailer to take advantage of tragedy in the name of a few extra dollars in their own pocket is shameful.”  

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