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U.S. News
Ginny Knor: Salvation Army spokeswoman

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

By Steve Twedt, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Ginny Knor, with nearly a decade's experience handling marketing and public relations for The Salvation Army, started thinking about the ceremonies that would mark the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11 within weeks of the attacks.

Planning ahead is her forte, and she'd already been through a similar memorial event after 132 died in the crash of USAirways Flight 427 in Hopewell seven years earlier.

But nothing in her background quite prepared her for this anniversary.

She thought she was ready. All the elements were coming together for the Flight 93 memorial service in Shanksville, Somerset County, planned for today.

Then, a few weeks ago, a New York television producer called, seeking stories about notable or unique donations from local people. For the first time in months, Knor pulled out the file full of heartfelt letters the Salvation Army had received and began reading.

And there, in the privacy of her Downtown office, the horror, the anger, the sadness washed over her again.

"It just gave me a jolt. It really brought a lot of it back."

Today, Knor will be in Shanksville for the first time since last September, when she accompanied Flight 93 family members to the field where so many lives were lost and so many heroes were born. At the time, it seemed incongruent to look out at a 30-foot hole being overhauled by heavy equipment and yet feel such a deep sense of reverence for what had happened there.

At a makeshift memorial, family members had brought remembrances -- hats, pictures, favorite snacks of their loved ones. It was a flight attendant's jacket that shook her the most, she said, "anything that would attach humanity" to the tragedy.

"I don't think that image will ever leave me. It's one thing to talk about numbers of donations, or statistics about how many people died. But when you see the families, it makes it very personal."

Despite the ongoing emotional toll, Knor was not dreading today's memorial service, an occasion that goes to the heart of the Army's mission to help families victimized by disaster. But she admitted, "I am nervous about it, just because I don't know how I'm going to react and I need to keep it together."

It's part of the training of those whose daily work involves disaster response to put on a layer of emotional self-protection. Not that Knor had the luxury those first few weeks for any kind of systems check on herself.

She still remembers watching through her office window late in the morning of Sept. 11 as Downtown Pittsburgh emptied into the suburbs and knowing she was facing the biggest challenge of her professional life.

The next weeks were a blur of telethons, the Shanksville trip, coordinating donations, answering media calls. She slept a few hours a night, worked on weekends, and lived on a diet that varied only by which toppings were on the pizza.

"There's just so much more anger involved," Knor said, "and it probably delays the grieving process."

But when it hit her, it hit her hard. One night in November, after another long day, she got home "and just cried, and cried, and cried."

Today, she credits the Salvation Army's ministry for helping raise everyone's spirits, including hers. This was always more than a job for her, but now she considers it closer to a calling. "This really drove home the message that I'm in the place I want to be."

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