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D.C. reacts

City residents, local businesses provided comfort

(Published Oct. 8, 2001)


Staff Writer

Miron Reed and Glynn Clea of Bennett Beauty Institute in Northeast Washington give special attention to an unidentified soldier as he takes a respite from rescue efforts at the Pentagon by visiting Comfort City.

Pentagon rescuers sought comfort in tents that offered serenity and support only a few feet away from where a plane lodged into the building in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

Instrumental in making that effort – dubbed Comfort City – successful was D.C. resident Robin Ijames, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8D, who asked the rescuers what they needed to keep performing their duty.

"They all said ‘My feet hurt, my back hurts and I need a haircut,’" Ijames said. Within minutes after the attack Ijames was on the phone, contacting volunteers and businesses that willingly gave up their time, energy and resources to help with the rescue efforts.

Ijames and the Rev. Stephen N. Short Sr., a chaplain for the Metropolitan Police Department, were among those honored by D.C. City Council for their support during the rescue operation. Ijames said she plans to travel to New York City, where local organizations have asked for her help to set up a "Comfort Zone" for the recovery workers at the World Trade Center site.

Ijames explained that a sense of camaraderie was felt among all who participated in the D.C. volunteers’ "Camp Unity" tents.

"Everyone felt blessed and honored to be apart of this. No one wanted to go when the tent was being broken down," said Ijames. The "Comfort Zone" tent was the last to be broken down, and even then, there were some rescuers waiting for a haircut. Sept. 28 was the last day for all volunteer efforts at the site.

Comfort City also included support stations set up by the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, McDonald’s, Burger King, Outback Steakhouse and the Ministry of Christ from Baton Rouge, La.

The District’s Camp Unity provided perhaps the most diverse forms of on-site support for Pentagon rescue workers. While volunteers were officially part of the "D.C. Fire and Rescue" team at the site, residents and businesses from all over the Washington metropolitan area pitched in as part of the effort.

Massage therapist Donald Tate of Laurel, Md., and a group of doctors from the International Chiropractors Association, based in Arlington, Va., volunteered their services. Bennett Beauty Institute of Northeast Washington volunteered their services for four days, and The Hair Cuttery sent 25 cosmetologists to participate from salons in Falls Church and Alexandria.

Timothy Patterson, a barber student at Bennett Institute, said the experience gave him and the other students a sense of patriotism and a way to give back to the community.

"We were cutting with a lot of love. We love America," Patterson said.

The haircuts gave rescuers a chance to unwind and take a breather before resuming the task of sifting through the Pentagon wreckage. The "Comfort Zone: Rest and Relaxation" station served as a temporary utopia for the rescuers. Card games, food, on-site chiropractors and cosmetologists all gave the rescuers a chance to momentarily forget about a horrific scene that was only a few yards from the tent. The tent was open 24 hours, as was the rescue and recovery effort.

Ijames said many local businesses contributed supplies for the Comfort Zone. A&A Rentals contributed the tents, and A-Plus Rentals supplied chairs and tables. JoAnn’s Bed Shop in Northern Virginia donated six rollaway beds. Virginia Power Co. provided generators and lights. Capital Tee donated 1,500 T-shirts for the rescuers and Special Tee’s donated 1,000 "Fire Fighter" T-shirts. The shirts, Ijames explained, were needed to compensate for the rescuers’ torn uniforms.

"The shirts were gone as soon as I laid them down," Ijames said.

In addition to the businesses volunteering, Ijames found a group of individuals primarily from Ward 8 who willingly volunteered. These individuals served on the "hospitality committee." Participants included Johnathan Bryant, Anne Beausang, Carolyn Curtis, Lois Manning Childs, Loretta Wilkins, Robin Walker, Rosalind Styles, Kim Hough, Jesse Norman, Myra Riggs, Kenny Baker, Beverly Jordan, Denise Lewis and Arthur Jackson.

Ijames said the hospitality committee was created to talk and listen to the rescuers. "Some of them [the rescuers] just needed someone to talk to," she said.

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator