9/11 in Remembrance

REALTORS® Reflect on 9/11

Many have called it our finest hour. For myself, I've never felt more proud of my fellow REALTORS®. On Sept. 12, 2001, less than 24 hours after the tragedies of 9/11, NAR decided to create the REALTORS® Housing Relief Fund (RHRF) to make sure no families of the victims lost their homes. While others talked, we acted, often delivering checks to families within a few days of receiving their applications. Today more than 1,200 families are safe in their homes as a result of what REALTORS® did for them two years ago. To every REALTOR® who volunteered to help, to every REALTOR® who contributed, to every REALTOR® who cared, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Pat Kaplan
Chair
REALTORS® Housing Relief Fund


In Their Own Words: REALTORS® Reflect
The following first-hand accounts from REALTORS® exhibit the compassion and determination of volunteers who dared to make a difference. Whether handing out RHRF checks or offering support to people so direly affected by the tragedy, these accounts illustrate the spirit of charity, community and courage that continues to this day. Please take a moment to read the following "In Their Own Words" accounts from REALTORS® and reflect on the fact that you belong to a truly special community.

"Nothing has given me greater satisfaction..."

“I thought it was a great effort in the way the REALTOR Relief Fund was organized and I was very proud of my team and the REALTOR® organization. My team alone, we delivered about 50 checks. It was more than $250,000 that we distributed to the fifty-some odd recipients. I’ve been involved with the REALTOR® organization at all levels: local, state and national; as president of the Long Island board; as president of the [NY] State association; as the Regional VP for Region 2; and chaired many committees, but nothing has given me greater satisfaction than working for this effort, to know that we were lifting at least the worry of the next three months of mortgage or rent payments from their minds.

I was born in the Depression, served in World War II (in the Battle of the Bulge with Patton’s Third Army), lived through a lot of different things, but outside of family experiences, this (working with the RHRF) was the most gratifying, important experience of my life. And I’ve been around for a few years. I thank the organization for doing it and I’m very proud for having taken part in a small way to help some of these families who remain on hard times, I’m sure. As Sept. 11 comes around, it’s going to be difficult for them, for most of us around the nation, and those of us in New York too, even though we had no one closely there. We’re all family when it comes down to it.”

-Tom Tabone
Essex Associates, Flushing, Long Island, N.Y.

 

"Even today some call to thank me..."

“My experience on the [RHRF] team was a rewarding one. I’d get the checks to the families as soon as they came in, delivering them from nine o’clock in the morning to nine o’clock at night depending on when I could meet with them.

I know that they appreciated it because even today I have some of the people [RHRF recipients] call me to thank me. I see them on the street and they thank me. My Kiwanis club, we have a special fund called the 9/11 Fund too. Some of the families [of the 9/11 victims] that were helped by our Kiwanis fund had also received checks from the REALTORS®. Then, because they knew me from already from delivering a RHRF check to their house, they were more comfortable with the Kiwanis fund. I guess you could say it created a lot of community involvement for the REALTOR® and for the community at large seeing that everybody pulled together to help these people.

This has impacted my commitment to community service going forward. I’m very involved in the Kiwanis organization and I just ran a picnic for Lou Gehrig’s disease and one of the groups that we invited were the children of the 9/11 family victims. And there were people there who I gave checks to that came and saw me at the gate when we were collecting tickets. In that respect, this spirit of givng that hasn’t gone away.”

-George Wonica
Wonica REALTORS® & Appraisers, Staten Island, N.Y.

 

"It made me feel closer to the REALTOR® community..."

“This (the RHRF effort) became such a priority that an application would come in and within a few hours we would sit down to judge it, at least three out of four of us, because we wanted it to be a majority decision. The tendency was to be as generous as possible given the circumstances and the parameters, to bring relief to these families. So within several hours — I guess there were a few circumstances where we had to wait until the next day, but generally within several hours — we would get our response back to state [NYSAR] indicating what we felt it would be appropriate for [the RHRF applicants] to receive. We would have the check within a couple of days, and then the team went out everywhere to deliver.

We went downstate (we were in Riverdale), the team went into Manhattan, they went into Lower Manhattan, they went into Westchester. It didn’t make any difference where we had to find a family member. If it was somebody at work, if it was somebody at home, if it was someone in a housing project, if it was someone in a penthouse: The team went out there to deliver the checks. If it was morning, noon or night; if it meant taking the subway or taking the bus, taking a car; whatever it took [the team] did it.

[The RHRF] actually made me feel closer to NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. It made me feel closer to the REALTOR® community in a way than it did to our neighborhood community because we already are connected to the neighborhood community. This is what we do every day. [The RHRF] gave us a way of reaching out. It provided us with a way of being responsive at a time when people wanted to be able to do something. You know, they weren’t even accepting blood at that time. They had so many people at the blood banks, they had so many people volunteering at hospitals that you couldn’t do anything. And [the RHRF] was a concrete way we could feel we were protecting what people needed in their lives. We were protecting their homes, their ability to stay in their homes. Whether they paid rent or whether they owned a house and had to pay a mortgage, we were providing that possibility: to give them some kind of relief, some kind of comfort, one less thing to worry about for the immediate future.

We felt it was through the generosity of REALTORS® and through the responsiveness in a very quick way from the REALTOR® community that we were able to get out there.”

-Susan Goldy
Susan E. Goldy, Inc., Riverdale, Bronx, N.Y.
Her team included REALTORS® Ellen Feld, Joan Kuzniar and Francine Gladstone.

"We are already preparing for the next fund raiser..."

“Being part of the REALTORS® Housing Relief Fund made it possible for me to experience a feeling that I know will stay with me for the rest of my life. Along with many others, I delivered relief checks to survivors of people who died on 9/11. I happen to live and work only two hours form New York City. Because REALTORS® reacted so fast, checks were being delivered to people who were still in terrible shock over their losses. Each one felt a need to tell me about their deceased loved ones. I felt a need to listen. Some had children with them and being a father myself, this made it even more difficult. To say it was hard for me is ridiculous when you think of what they had to endure. Nevertheless, while it was difficult for me to do it was also rewarding. It felt good to help someone in need without looking for anything in return.

I could not help talking about my experiences with the agents and staff of my office. A desire to help people, that I believe grew from REALTORS® getting involved in the Housing Relief Fund, motivated myself and others in my office to do more. Donation checks from our office to the relief fund increased. But it didn't stop with that. Shortly thereafter we got involved with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. Having an office with cancer survivors made it even more important to us. We put together a miniature golf tournament to raise money for the fund. Local businesses, REALTORS®, cancer survivors and ordinary citizens all remembered their loved ones by getting involved with our REALTOR® tournament. We raised a couple of thousand dollars with our small local project, but the real success was not in the amount of money raised but in the amount of love and caring that took place. Now, we are already preparing for the next fund raiser. This time even more people have volunteered to help. I might add most of them are REALTORS® in the Pike/Wayne Association of REALTORS® of Northeastern PA.

So, what began as a terrible tragedy caused a reaction in our office that got more REALTORS® doing what REALTORS® do best, that is to simply help people.”

-Jerry Romanik
Summit Realty, Hawley, Penn.

"A gift to help people just for the sake of helping people..."

“My office is on Long Island, about 50 miles from Manhattan, and if you want to get on Long Island you are going to have to go through the city somehow. Unless you get on or off by boat, you’re going through the city and what’s missing is the World Trade Center. We’re reminded of that every time we pass through and on the anniversary even more so.

When reflecting back, I was very proud of our REALTOR® organization for putting into effect the relief fund, acting immediately on it.

I had a team of five people. My team was from my local area, as a matter of fact from right here in my local office. I own a real estate company here and we had five people who were immediately available to review applications [to the RHRF] as soon as they came in. Then we would receive the checks and we’d place calls. We’d place calls to the applicants, to the surviving spouses and they applied for the funds, so it wasn’t like we were strangers calling them. However, we were the first ones to approach them. We were among the first organizations to actually get dollars to them and that meant a lot in every single case. Our fund was set up to pay the first three months' mortgage payments or rent and in a lot of cases this was the only money that these people had. It really was. Their mortgage or rent payment would not have been paid had it not been for the relief fund.

It was even more than the money. In a lot of cases it was the money, because they needed to make their mortgage or rental payment, but also the fact that there was an organization reaching out to them was also paramount. Very, very important. That was almost as important as the money. To know that someone cared, cared enough to say: 'Hey, here’s something. Here’s something we can do for you and we care about the situation and we’re here for you.' And those words and those actions by the REALTOR® organization were excellent. They came through during a needy time on behalf of these people. I was very proud of our REALTOR® organization for structuring that and making that a reality for these people.

A lot of the time REALTORS® are busy being REALTORS®, going about their everyday lives and business, and a lot of our REALTORS® don’t understand what the REALTOR® organization brings to them. This was a time when they really saw their organization giving. We didn’t have to. It wasn’t a business situation. We didn’t do it in any way to prosper. It was not done to get future business. This was a gift to help people just for the sake of helping people. And there was no mention of what offices the REALTORS® were from, none of that. So all the people on the team were proud, they felt the same way I felt: proud to be part of the REALTOR® family.”

-Joe Canfora
Century 21 Selmar Realty, East Islip, N.Y.

"I was never more proud of being a REALTOR®..."

“I only delivered one check, but it was to the widow of the co-pilot of one of the planes that had gone into the World Trade Center. It was the most moving and the most difficult things that I’ve had to do, I think, in my REALTOR® career, and yet I was very proud to be a REALTOR® and be part of the Housing Relief Fund and to be able to do this.

I actually had tremendous anxiety about getting that close to the tragedy. She [the widow] is a teacher at a local Catholic school next to where my own kids go to school. Everybody knew her in the community. So I knew all about [her] tragedy, and actually a lot of the neighbors had gotten together right after he died and they completed a walkway he hadn't finished.

When I delivered the check to the widow, she said to me: 'Dominic, please convey my appreciation up the ladder to the REALTOR® organization. Of all the people I’ve had to deal with, of all the help that’s been given to us, no one was better to deal with: quicker and easier, no red tape.' She was just so impressed with the fact that REALTORS® had helped in a substantial way and that we had helped so quickly and so efficiently. She was very impressed with us. I was never more proud of being a REALTOR® than with the Housing Relief Fund.”

-Dominic J. Cardone
Prudential Fox & Roach REALTORS®, Media, Penn.

 

"The emotions that well up will always be there..."

“The emotions that well up when I think about the families of the 9/11 victims I spoke with two years ago will always be there. Only this past Sunday [9/07/2003], I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about 9/11. Two of the women I was able to help by providing funds from our relief fund were in the article. I have prayed for these women often over the past two years.

My heart broke when I spoke with them, knowing the horrible grief that they were experiencing and also worrying about how they would rebuild their lives. Tears came to my eyes when I read the article, but after reading it I felt encouraged. These two strong women were on their way to rebuilding their lives. Nothing will ever remove the horror of that dreadful day from their memories, but at least they have been able to pick up the pieces and move forward. These are very brave women. We as REALTORS® did our small part to assist as many individuals as we could in a very quiet, caring manner. I am happy we were able to do that."

-Ellen Renish
Continental Realty, East Norriton, Penn.

 

"We are looking towards a memorial service marking the fifth anniversary..."

“Here on Long Beach Island, N.J., we have decided to hold back on our Illumination Memorial Service for the time being ... For now we are looking to organize a memorial service to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11 with another attempt to create a human chain of remembrance and resolve in memory of the victims of that tragic day and all the others who have since given their lives to combat terrorism. Under discussion is the idea of joining the participants together with an 18-mile long red, white and blue ribbon that will extend the entire length of LBI.”

-Steve Moran & Maggie O'Neal
CENTURY 21, Mary Allen Realty, Inc., Ship Bottom, Long Beach Island, N.J. (Steve and Maggie organized a candlelight remembrance ceremony at the Jersey shore the past two years. Read his story about last year's event >>)

 

"One of the first things I did was to call all of my clients of Middle Eastern extraction..."

“I worked with the REALTOR® Housing Relief Fund, processing applications and distributing checks personally. One of the first things I did, though, was to call all of my clients of Middle Eastern extraction because I was really concerned about their safety. I asked them if they needed anything, if anything had happened, and told them that if there was anything I could do to please call me. I have a very large client base in that culture.

That was the first thing. Then I started searching out more information regarding Islam, because I wanted to be able to understand why this had happened, and how it could have happened. So I went to some meetings to learn about Islam and Islamic culture in general. I actually have read the Koran a couple of times now and it has helped me to put into perspective what really happened here: that it’s not a people, that it’s not a culture, that it’s one individual manipulating things in a way that reminds me of Hitler.

I guess part of my drive with this has been because I met some of the victims' families: those who were directly impacted by the loss of loved ones. By delivering Relief Fund checks, I saw their faces, I talked with them, in some cases I spent hours with them. It’s an experience that I can’t liken to anything I’ve experienced before. That’s a lot for me to say because I have a law enforcement background, so I’ve been involved in disasters before where there were quite a few people killed. Simultaneously, 9/11 caused me to reach out to my Middle Eastern clients, to try and understand their culture more, and to deal with traumatic inner feelings because of my past law enforcement experiences. So I had a multitude of reactions to 9/11 and working with the Relief Fund.

I’m very involved internationally in real estate, in my business and with NAR’s CIPS Network, I do study the different cultures so I can work with them professionally, but I also feel that too many people in this country have more or less written off a population and it’s not them, it’s not their religion. They are a very peace-loving group of people. The main thing that came out of this for me is that I sat down and read the Koran. I don’t have the time for that, but I made time to do it to better understand.”

-Carol Kope, CIPS
Coldwell Banker, Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

 

Editor's Note: While the REALTOR® Housing Relief Fund closed on Dec. 11, 2001, we continued to receive contributions beyond the date. Today, the REALTORS® Relief Foundation continues the mission of aiding and comforting those adversely affected by disasters such as tornadoes, floods, fires and other tragedies.


Visit the 2002 REALTOR.org "9/11 Remembrance Site"
Last year's 9/11 in Remembrance site offers first-hand accounts of charity and selflessness by members of the REALTOR® community. This site stands in memory of the 9/11 victims and their families and in tribute to the many acts of generosity and civic spirit shown by the REALTOR® family.

See all content about:  NAR history   

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