Friday, September 21, 2001
Carlisle responds to the day of terror
As the incredible horrific events on September 11 unfolded, Carlisle police and fire departments mobilized to respond to a possible but unknown threat; schools tried to help students cope with the tragic, frightening events; churches opened their doors to those who sought to share their compassion and sorrow in the warmth of a close community. Although, to our knowledge, no Carlisle resident or immediate family member was a direct victim of the attacks on New York, Washington and the plane crash near Pittsburgh, no one in this town, or anywhere in America, was untouched by the events.
Churches open doors
Carlisle's three churches responded immediately to the national crisis. Both the First Religious Society and St. Irene Catholic Church held services on Tuesday evening. The First Religious Society had a vigil service at 7 p.m. and St. Irene's had a special mass at 7:30 that night. In addition, St. Irene's had a candlelight vigil throughout the evening. Both groups manned telephones giving information about the services and St. Irene's also used posters and e-mail to notify people of the service. Representatives of both churches said they had tried to keep their doors open as much as possible during the week.
Pastor Keith Greer of the Congregational Church said that special prayer meetings were held during the week. The church also prepared a sheet of information for parents who wanted to talk with their children about the attacks on New York and Washington.
On Friday, the national day of mourning, the First Religious Society sanctuary was open for quiet reflection, the organist played, and the church bell was rung. St. Irene's parishioners attended services at either St. Bernard's in Concord or St. Michael's in Bedford.
All three churches reported that regular Sunday services were filled and were focused on the events of the week. No formal relief fund has been established, though all three indicated plans for future participation in the relief effort through their own or American Red Cross channels.
Carlisle Schools respond calmly
Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson forced herself to take a measured response to Tuesday's attack. Although visibly upset by the events, she said calmly, "We have to put the children's needs first. We have to respond to the world news by reassuring the children first."
On the day following the disaster, the superintendent's office sent letters home to parents with students . The middle school and elementary school letters contained slightly different text. Both missives expressed the faculty and staff's sympathy for the victims and their families affected by the tragic events in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. The letters reprinted the text read in classrooms to students.
Teachers of elementary school students read: "You have probably heard of some sad and frightening things which happened yesterday. Most of you have spoken to your parents about them. We want you to know that we are all safe at school. The people who run our country: our leaders, soldiers and police are looking to find and punish those who did these things. Even though we may be sad, we are going to continue to go on with our regular school day because that is our important job."
Teachers of middle school students read: "As you know, yesterday some terrible events occurred in our country. Some unknown people deliberately crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Many people were killed and injured. We do not know who committed these horrible, cowardly acts. We believe that they are people who hate our country. Our Government officials, the military and police are investigating. We are confident that they will find and punish those who are responsible."
The school has made counseling services available to students as needed. Fox-Melanson said that none of the children have needed counseling at this time. She noted that the adults at the school have had a more difficult time dealing with the events, and she has permitted school employees to take time to attend religious services as requested.
CCHS plans community action
At Concord-Carlisle High School, as news of the attack became known, administrators dispersed though the building to inform teachers of the news and encouraged them to allow class discussions in place of prepared lessons. Teachers tried to identify students that might need additional counseling, not knowing what tragedies might involve their families. The faculty met at the end of the day to discuss further action.
On Wednesday, CCHS principal Arthur DuLong distributed a memo to faculty which was read over the public address system first thing in the morning. "At CCHS there may be little we can do to affect the events of the world," the memo said, "but there is much we can do to affect the events within our community." DuLong also urged teachers to allow time in the first period for students to share and respond to each other's thoughts; asked teachers and students to suggest ways that they can respond to needs within the local or national community; and invited students and faculty to unstructured discussion sessions during lunch block.
Police on 'heightened awareness'
Police chief David Galvin said that his office has been getting information on terrorists and how their activities may relate to municipal departments. The department takes these advisories seriously and has a "heightened awareness". Galvin has been in touch with NEMLEC (North East Middlesex Law Enforcement Council}, a group to which Carlisle has applied for membership and the NEMLEC president has assured Galvin they would supply any needed back-up services during this emergency and until we have full membership in that group.
Firemen stand ready
Carlisle's fire department had no requests for services stemming from the federal emergency, but they received daily advisories relating to security of the station and of apparatus, according to deputy fire chief Dave Flannery. There has been generally tightened security, such as police drive-bys, checking on license plates of cars coming to the station, and extra measures for communicating with personnel.
The Concord Area's Stress Management Team has sent individuals from the area to New York. The Massachusetts Fire Mobilization Task Force, which organized the response to the Worcester fire, has not received requests from New York, but Flannery says our personnel have been on standby since last Wednesday and have inventoried resources. If any Massachusetts firemen are called, they will be paid by FEMA and will work as part of a larger group. He said, "It's a great network in place from the federal government all the way down."
Stress debriefers head to NYC
On Wednesday, September 19 George Middleton and David Ziehler, members of the Carlisle Fire Department, left for New York City to assist with debriefing firefighters who were involved in the horrific aftermath of September 11.
Both men are members of the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Team (CISD), having received training at the on-site academy in Gardner, Massachusetts. They will use their training to help firefighters cope with the traumas of the rescue mission at the World Trade Center. They will stay for five days at the NYC Fire Station, one block away from the trade center devastation.
Appearance of normalcy
As the days roll on and the community returns to its routines and schedules, the appearance of normalcy is comforting. But everyone knows that the world, or even Carlisle, will never be the same safe cocoon again.
Anne Marie Brako, Kathleen Coyle, Marilyn Harte, Maya Liteplo, and Bob Rothenberg contributed to this article.
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