News and Events

DCS Chaplains participate in “We are Orlando” Interfaith Memorial and Peace Vigil

DCS chaplains Nathan Brisby, Diane Wildwow, Mike Lopez

June 21, 2016

DCS chaplains participated in the vigil,”We are Orlando“, for the victims of the June 19th shooting in Orlando. The vigil was attended by members of several different faith groups and took place at All Saints Church in Ridgewood, Queens. Read more at:

 http://qns.com/story/2016/06/17/ridgewood-comes-together-for-love-at-vigil-for-the-orlando-shooting-victims/

Disaster Chaplaincy Services supports Office of Chief Medical Examiner’s Missing Persons Day

DCS chaplains Bruce Williams, Diane Azur-Colon and Sonya Brown at morning briefing

April 16, 2016

For the second year, DCS assisted the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York to create and offer Missing Person’s Day.  There are more than 13,000 missing persons in the New York area including at least 200 children.  Nationwide there are more than 87,000 active missing persons cases.  In addition, there are tens of thousands of unidentified persons for whom little or no information is available.

The focus of Missing Person’s Day, hosted by OCME, is to connect family members with resources to help identify and find their long-term (defined as being missing for more than 60 days) missing loved ones.  Family and friends are given direct access to interviews with professionals and the opportunity to provide information to aid in identifying their loved one.  DCS was on site to provide spiritual and emotional support for any family member or friends for whom the day and experience of trying to locate their loved one may have been stressful or overwhelming.  A DCS chaplain who also volunteered for the first Missing Person’s Day, Reverend Sonya Brown mentioned that as important as it is to comfort families, it is also necessary to remind OCME staff the importance of self-care. Reverend Bruce Williams reflected on the families he met with during the day and noted, “The most memorable was speaking with a man who came in trying to find his mother who had been missing since the 1970′s.  He said the Missing Persons program gives him hope.”

Providing eight chaplains for the day, DCS offered solace and comfort for family members and staff.  As a partner group, DCS is proud of our relationship with OCME and honored to assist developing and implementing this critical day.

Reflections on Attending 9/11 Museum Interfaith Gathering: A witness to Peace with Pope Francis

September 25, 2015

At the invitation of Cardinal Dolan, DCS chaplain Abdus-Salaam Musa attended the interfaith service led by Pope Francis at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Below are Musa’s reflections on the service.

“I have been involved with doing interfaith work for 20 years and this experience for me was akin to attending the Parliament of World Religions in Barcelona, Spain. However, the difference at this gathering it was more intimate for me.

Riding down on the train was three of my Muslim immigrant brothers from the Islamic Circle of North America our conversations did not center on the event we were about to attend. It was more on intra-faith politics. We did explore the significance of this function but without depth. As a former Catholic and American the attendance for me was different from them. My feelings were mixed as to the meaning of religious leaders gathering to meet this distinguish man who heads the Catholic Church. I knew that this was an historic event that and felt bless to be a part of this momentous gathering.

We arrived and got on line to display our tickets and get screened before we were allowed to enter museum. The security was tight but the line moved rather quickly. I saw many of my former colleagues that I had worked with throughout the years. As I entered I saw an elder brother who is 90 years old and a Professor at one of the local colleges. We discussed the gathering and both mutually agreed how could anyone religion claim that they had the right way looking at the harmonious way we all were interacting with each other. After mingling around the designated spaces we were allowed to gather in the museum talking with different people I knew finally we were asked to go to our seats.

My view was good however I would have like to have been closer. The row seating I was assigned consisted of three Muslims including myself, two Catholic Priest three Rabbis, and about four Christians. I thought about the turmoil that was going on in the world using religion as an excuse and the congeniality that was being exhibited here at this gathering. Only if this atmosphere could be bottled, given to the world leaders then we would not have the conflicts that exist now in the world.

We all waited in anticipation for the arrival of the Pope. It seem like it was forever but we entertained ourselves in getting to know each other. It reminded me of a iyat (verse) in the Quran where Allah tells us He made us into different nations and tribes so we can know one another. That was happening here Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhist, Sikhs, Native Americans and others. Yes we were getting to know one another. During this waiting period I assisted one Catholic Priest, two Rabbis and my Muslim brothers in getting their headsets on for the translation of the Pope’s message when he spoke in Spanish.

There were invocations given by each of the faith traditions on the stage. I felt proud that I knew the two people from my faith tradition and one of them I watched him grow up. Each of them stressed love, peace and harmony.  The Pope spoke about the tragedy of what took place where we stood over 14 years ago and how out of that disaster this city had come together to build community and new foundation based on peace. The way New Yorkers came together regardless of race and religion to rescue those would were maimed and disorientated. He reminded those who lost their lives going into the towers to save others. His words were elegant and some would consider it to be appropriate for the gathering.

In conclusion I can honestly say it was a privilege to be in attendance of this historic event. I have mementos to share with my family. I have memories that will stay with me of being a witness to this historical event.”

-          Abdus-Salaam Musa

Disaster Chaplaincy Services Deploys to Metro-North Fatal Train Accident, Valhalla, NY

February 17, 2015

The evening of February 3rd seemed like a regular week-night, commuters alighting a Metro-North train, going home to the northern suburbs of Manhattan.  Seeing a vehicle caught by crossing gates on the tracks near Valhalla, NY, the conductor slowed the train.  It was not enough. Tragically the train hit the SUV, erupting into flames, dislodging the electrified third rail, which, combined with the gasoline in the vehicle created a deadly inferno.  Hundreds of passengers scrambled for safety through spreading smoke, helping one another escape.

Once Disaster Chaplaincy Services received the deployment call, we began preparing for what was predicted to be a 4 – 5 day deployment.  Within minutes, DCS had a chaplain on site, then to the location where family members whose loved ones had not arrived home were anxiously waiting.  Being present for these family members was our primary task.  Feeling as if they were in limbo, with very little information provided, the families were distraught.  Working collaboratively with an MTA chaplain and mental health professionals, DCS’s chaplain offered support to families at this location and at the police station as family members met with the Westchester Medical Examiner.

This deployment lasted throughout the night.  As long as DCS was needed to provide spiritual care, compassion, strength and a soothing presence – we were present.

 

Disaster Chaplaincy Services participated in New York City’s first Missing Persons Day on November 8, 2014

DCS Chaplains Noster Montas and Sonya Brown at Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

On November 8, Disaster Chaplaincy Services participated in New York City’s first Missing Persons Day, partnering with the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Other agencies involved included Office of Emergency Management, NY Police Department, The NYC Dept. of Mental Health and Hygiene, National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), and 12 other agencies.

As The New York Times reported, “Relatives and friends of anyone who has been missing long-term were urged to attend.  They gathered…in an auditorium.  Each family was paired with a chaplain since the process can stir up intense feelings, officials said.”  Disaster Chaplaincy Services provided the 12 chaplains present.

In the months of planning that preceded this unprecedented event – an event which the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will be repeating annually – Nancy Robillard, DCS’s Program Manager, and Rabbi Janise Poticha, Board Member and Director of the Leadership Team, attended weekly planning sessions.
Rabbi Poticha indicated that “the collaboration on the part of all agencies involved helped to bring about a successful event. Our DCS chaplains offering spiritual care, those whose specialty is mental health, translators, forensic scientists and other professionals were committed to making a very difficult day for the family members of those missing, the most comfortable and sensitive as possible.”

DCS’s chaplains not only provided spiritual care to family members and friends who continue to deal with the strain of not knowing the whereabouts of their missing loved one(s) but also supported members of the staff of the various organizations present.

Last year, in New York City 13,000 people were reported missing including some 200 children.  The NYC OCME has very sophisticated equipment to analyze information and connects their database to others across the country.  Family members voluntarily gave DNA samples which were recorded into the database.  The hope is that some of those samples will be a match.

Of her experience of the day, Rev. Rebecca Bean, a DCS chaplain said:  “I found myself reflecting on the words ‘hope’ and ‘closure’ during the day, especially as I learned that a number of the ‘missing’ had been out of family contact since the 1970’s.  For one brother and sister, their father had been missing for over 25 years, and their highest ‘hope’ was that his remains could be located ‘for closure’. ‘At least we might know where he is, whether we can ‘bring him home or not’.”
“In my imagining about this deployment, I envisioned that families’ hope would be for reuniting with their loved one, in the physical form.  I imagined much more ‘emotional’ evidence of their long-time anxiety of ‘not knowing’. Perhaps these families, more so than other families in grief, have been compelled to come to grips with the idea that whether they ever know where their loved one physically is or even whether they are still alive – they have been forever changed by this experience, and have had to find a way adapt, and to live their lives differently, perhaps more ‘inside’ than ‘out’.”

Robert Lonergan, a DCS chaplain and a retired NYPD detective recounted that “the day brought flashbacks to when I was a detective.  Grieving family members would be escorted to the morgue to identify the deceased.  Family members would cry, shout out and were visibly shaken.  This Missing Persons Day was very different.  With up-to-date technology and the presence of chaplains, family members were comforted, giving them the knowledge that people truly cared.”

Within a few short days after the event, the NYC Medical Examiner’s office reported that as a result of the event, 175 calls were made to the hotline; 93 families were seen and 25 direct phone interviews were conducted.  At least 2 deceased individuals were identified and will be returned to their families and another missing person was located.  As the DNA information is processed the hope is more individuals will be identified and returned to their family members.  One scientist who was part of the ME’s team said:  “This is why I went into forensic science!”

Our chaplains felt honored to be part of such a significant day.

Robert Lonergan and Janise Poticha

 

 

DCS Chaplains provide spiritual care at 9/11 memorial museum

-September 12, 2014

DCS Chaplains provided spiritual care to families and first responders who visited the memorial museum on September 11, 2014. Below is a reflection of one chaplain’s experience:

“We did encounter various family members of the deceased and were able to offer consolation;  even though one might assume that there would have been closure after thirteen years–not so for some.  Their support group may be tiny, dispersed, and distant, perhaps even international.  Our presence there with them as chaplains help make the grieving process more real and attainable and less scary and intense.”

-Rev. Joseph Parrish

 DCS Chaplains lend support as thousands gather to pay respects to fallen fire fighter on Staten Island.

-July 14, 2014

Last week over six thousand FDNY first responders mourned along with family and friends of Lt. Gordon Matthew Ambelas, who died in the line of duty in a Brooklyn fire. Two DCS chaplains reflect on their service that day:

“I volunteered as the lead chaplain at the funeral of a firefighter killed in the line of duty in Brooklyn.  The funeral took place in Staten Island. Staten Island is my home and so I was glad to be able to serve on the Island where I live.  I watched as line after line, fire station after fire station, and so many other service personnel appeared in the streets.  They kept walking, seemingly without end.  Thousands of men and women and some families honoring a man who was taken from this earth–too young, leaving behind a wife and young children.  They all know this is the risk they take but it doesn’t make the funeral or the ceremonies any easier.

I volunteered on one end–everyone going down the street to get to the church or stand outside of it as the funeral started.  Then, the many who could not go inside started moving towards the fire station–waiting until the funeral was over.  Then they began to line up as the procession made its way down the street and past the fire station that had put out a huge sign of hospitality–welcoming everyone to have bagels, muffins, coffee and water. The ceremonial procession began as the drummers and bagpipes processed by and then the fire truck with Lt. Gordon Matthew Ambelas’ body passed us all; we all were silent as they passed, many arms raised in salute.

And at my tent station directly across from the fire station, they poured past.  We offered them ice cold water, plucked from the bottom of the ice chest.  The local fire department kept bringing us giant ice chests filled to the brim with ice so that we could hand them out. It was an overcast day but it was still muggy.  We offered cookies–oreos and sugar free.  Some of the men expressed gratitude for the sugar free cookies since they could not eat the other variety.  There were smiles and a lot of laughter.  We joked back and forth about the water and the port o potties. So many of the people expressed gratitude for us being there as we fished out ice cold water.  How do you respond to their gratitude, knowing how often they risk their lives for us?  You simply say “thank you” or “you’re welcome”, knowing that these simple encounters–the giving of water and cookies–are symbolic of our common human bonds, of our care for one another and our faithful response when tragedy strikes and we reach out however we can.”

​–Rev. Susan Karlson​

“For me, this was a very different deployment, and one much more about physical “service” because of the conditions…  I was assigned to “URV 2″ – a Red Cross truck unit stationed 2 blocks from the fire house base of operations, and about 6 blocks from the church where services were held.  We worked under a small FDNY tent, and as the day grew hotter, and the hour for the service got closer, we were literally deluged with arriving firefighters who had walked quite a distance from their buses, and were hot and thirsty.  It become literally a race to keep water bottles iced down and cooling, hand them out, offer snacks, cold towels and ice packs where needed.  As the afternoon grew later we had several firemen literally stagger over to the tent for shade, just to sit for a minute – especially right before the funeral procession passed by.  Red Cross and the EMT’s assisted several in our area who were overwhelmed by the heat.

In the midst of all the activity, however, it was so amazing to take a second and realize I was in the center of a rare and sacred tradition of honoring a “fallen brother,” and was awed by the extended times of silent “standing attention” for salute, AND by the immense numbers of the firefighters who showed up (estimated to be about 5,000).  From my eye witness, I know in the ten blocks from the firehouse to the church, firemen “fell in” in 6-20 rows literally10 blocks long.

In the times where the group was not “in formation,” it immediately turned into a “family reunion” with firemen and women from houses all over the city, and around the country greeting each other with joy and hugs and laughter.  One retired fire marshal mentioned that “unfortunately, it’s the only time we get to see old friends from other  houses where we’ve worked.”

Another amazing sight were the numbers of firemen who brought their children (I image purely from “day care” necessity) but watching them be so tender and caring with their little ones (some even in strollers) was very profound.  We even sheltered one or two little ones under the tent for a break from the heat.

I was extremely impressed by the amazing planning and forethought that the FDNY put into place to make this day possible.  Coordination with Red Cross was flawless, and to a person, every staff person and firefighter I encountered was helpful, kind, and incredibly grateful for our services.

When the FDNY talks about “being brothers” – they don’t take that claim lightly.  The love and pride in this group was awesome, and it was a great honor to represent DCS at this service. “

–Rev. Rebecca Bean

 Memories, Monument, Museum

May 30, 2014

The site of the World Trade Center 9/11 disaster is replete with memories and imagery. I was an eyewitness and volunteer at Ground Zero from the afternoon of Sept. 11th till today, involved with much of the search, recovery and chaplaincy.

A new phase for America, New York, Washington DC, Shanksville, PA and all those affected began with the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  It was an honor to be a DCS chaplain during the weeklong opening.  The dedication ceremony featured remarks from President Obama, politicians from New York and New Jersey and those immediately effected by our nation’s tragedy.  Each subsequent day of the special openings saw firefighters, police, family members and residents of the immediate neighborhood in attendance.  Thousands of individuals descended down to the vast cavern of Foundation Hall, the deeply personal space of: In Memoriam, the heart-wrenching imagery within Exhibition Hall all beneath the footprints of the North and South Towers.  Twisted metal of tridents, a fire truck from Ladder #3 and the antenna from atop the North Tower brought memories rushing back, stories were shared and tears were shed.  Under Virgil’s quote: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time”, surrounded by 2,983 squares, each a different shade of blue representing the color of the sky that morning, thousands of individuals moved in hushed silence.  Seeing the photo of a loved one on the wall of In Memoriam for the first time was tragic.  To hear taped original voices of individuals calling loved ones to say: “I love you” one last time, was heart wrenching.  Audible news-feeds and original video of the day was agonizing.  Seemingly ordinary objects: a watch, wallet, handkerchief, pair of shoes became extraordinary, when, under plexiglas, the story of their journey to the museum is told.  I met a construction worker who had fallen to his knees when he first glimpsed at the helmet he dedicated to the museum- how we spoke of that night and the horror, but also the miracles.  From speaking to a 35-year veteran of the Fire Department, another firefighter who spent the past year traveling the East Coast with the 9/11 National flag to a teenager who remembered her father only through the loving stories told by her mother, it was truly a privilege to be present as a DCS chaplain. Offering spiritual care to those whose hearts are still broken, still tying to mend was a blessing and an honor.

The day the museum opened to the public began with the flag unfurling ceremony.  An honor guard of firefighters and police officers handed the American flag that had flown over the site in the days, weeks and years after that September 11th day, to family members, survivors and children before it was returned home.

As a DCS chaplain, soon it became clear that our concern needed to be shared with the volunteers and staff of the museum. Even though 600 volunteer docents who are survivors, victims’ family members, volunteers and first responders and the staff spent months training and preparing for their work in the museum, being in the emotional-laden space is very difficult.  I was honored to meet with members of the staff and offer suggestions how individuals and the general staff can process the emotions that flow every day.  Self-care is key to the important work they provide.

Out of the rubble have risen a testimony, a witness, a reminder, a mausoleum, and a museum.  What has ascended is a testament to courage, kindness and human resiliency.  As a member of the board and chaplain for Disaster Chaplaincy Services who has been committed to the victims, survivors and site since Sept. 11, 2001, I am proud of the work preformed by DCS chaplains and of the professional compassion offered to those who our chaplains touched.

Rabbi Janise Poticha
DCS Board Member, Leadership Team, Chaplain

 

Disaster Chaplaincy Services deployed at new 9/11 museum

May 27, 2014
–Rev. Joshua Ellis

Thirty eight Disaster Chaplaincy Services Chaplains were deployed at the new 9/11 Memorial Museum.

During the week prior its official opening to the general public, the museum hosted the families who were directly impacted by the tragedies at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, as well as first and second responders from across America, including fire and police departments.  The new museum is a space to share a collective sorrow.

Working with the Red Cross on deployment after deployment makes me realize, first-hand, what an extraordinary organization it is.  I am blessed to work with side-by-side with these people, as well as my deeply-committed fellow DCS chaplains.

DCS and the American Red Cross of Greater New York are a team.  Red Cross provides mental health care; DCS offers spiritual care.  We have been partners for over a decade and it’s a match made in heaven — a team that has bonded over dozens of disasters and catastrophes.

A special thank you to Rabbi Janise Poticha, DCS board and leadership team member who provided extraordinary leadership throughout this deployment. Additional kudos to Nancy Robillard, DCS’s Operations Coordinator and my many fellow chaplains who served.

“We came in here as individuals and we’ll walk out together.”

These words displayed on one of the walls of the museum.  I think they encapsulate the spirit of the experience.

A few DCS chaplains share their experiences of their deployments at the 9/11 Memorial Museum during the pre-opening week:

MAYER PERELMUTTER:
“I will always recall hearing from a husband whose wife died in the North Tower. He shared with me that his granddaughter, named after his wife, was born on the day the Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden. He also shared that he has come to learn that the most effective way of doing tzedakkah [charity] is to actually go to the soup kitchens, or be present personally to those in need.  Doing this has given him a renewed sense of meaning and purpose in life.

I was approached by one of the museum docents. He thanked for being there, which gave me an opening to ask him why he was there doing what he did. He shared with me that he was the only survivor of his twelve man fire department company, and that he was rescued after being trapped for many terrifying hours in the rubble of the towers, and he does what he does as a tribute to the memory of his murdered friends, and to make sure that this event is never forgotten.

I expected to be overwhelmed by sorrow by engaging in this experience. What I did instead experience was the power of human resiliency.”

ARTURO GUZMAN:
“As I entered the museum an enormous sense of grief engulfed me and made me realize that I still carried emotions of fear, confusion and anger.   The images and sounds help to re-engage the much needed healing process. I was truly grateful for this opportunity and for the staff, as well as the leader ship team that supported each other during this very emotional experience.”

JANISE POTICHA:
“I met a construction worker who had fallen to his knees when he first glimpsed at the helmet he dedicated to the museum- how we spoke of that night and the horror, but also the miracles.  From speaking to a 35-year veteran of the Fire Department, another firefighter who spent the past year traveling the East Coast with the 9/11 National flag to a teenager who remembered her father only through the loving stories told by her mother, it was truly a privilege to be present as a DCS chaplain. Offering spiritual care to those whose hearts are still broken, still tying to mend was a blessing and an honor.”

NORMAN BEALE:
“It was an honor and a privilege to serve with Disaster Chaplaincy Services and the Red Cross at the 9/11 Museum.  There were many tears and moments of reaching out.  I interacted with family members of victims, police, firefighters, second-responders, a wife of firefighters (one of whom recounted the searing story of hero to zero to coping and healing) and a transit worker.  Doing this as a team was and is really important.”

REBECCA BEAN:
“Most people visiting during my shift were young firefighters in uniform and a large group of retired firemen as well.  It was great to see them attending in groups and talking with and supporting each other.”

NATHAN BRISBY:
“The museum is a very powerful space.  I was asked to pray with several people, which was an overwhelming blessing.  I also heard lots of stories about people’s loved ones.  One lady in particular saw a picture — a group shot of people lining up against the wall — and she saw half of her husband’s back.  She was so moved that she just stood next to the picture for an hour — touching the little spot where half her husband’s back was. She didn’t think there were going to be any pictures of her husband in that part of the exhibit. When she left me, she shook her head and said ‘My husband’s back’.  The poetry of her statement wasn’t lost on either of us.”

The site of the World Trade Center 9/11 disaster is replete with memories and imagery. I was an eyewitness and volunteer at Ground Zero from the afternoon of Sept. 11th till today, involved with much of the search, recovery and chaplaincy.

A new phase for America, New York, Washington DC, Shanksville, PA and all those affected began with the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.  It was an honor to be a DCS chaplain during the weeklong opening.  The dedication ceremony featured remarks from President Obama, politicians from New York and New Jersey and those immediately effected by our nation’s tragedy.  Each subsequent day of the special openings saw firefighters, police, family members and residents of the immediate neighborhood in attendance.  Thousands of individuals descended down to the vast cavern of Foundation Hall, the deeply personal space of: In Memoriam, the heart-wrenching imagery within Exhibition Hall all beneath the footprints of the North and South Towers.  Twisted metal of tridents, a fire truck from Ladder #3 and the antenna from atop the North Tower brought memories rushing back, stories were shared and tears were shed.  Under Virgil’s quote: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time”, surrounded by 2,983 squares, each a different shade of blue representing the color of the sky that morning, thousands of individuals moved in hushed silence.  Seeing the photo of a loved one on the wall of In Memoriam for the first time was tragic.  To hear taped original voices of individuals calling loved ones to say: “I love you” one last time, was heart wrenching.  Audible news-feeds and original video of the day was agonizing.  Seemingly ordinary objects: a watch, wallet, handkerchief, pair of shoes became extraordinary, when, under plexiglas, the story of their journey to the museum is told.  I met a construction worker who had fallen to his knees when he first glimpsed at the helmet he dedicated to the museum- how we spoke of that night and the horror, but also the miracles.  From speaking to a 35-year veteran of the Fire Department, another firefighter who spent the past year traveling the East Coast with the 9/11 National flag to a teenager who remembered her father only through the loving stories told by her mother, it was truly a privilege to be present as a DCS chaplain. Offering spiritual care to those whose hearts are still broken, still tying to mend was a blessing and an honor.

The day the museum opened to the public began with the flag unfurling ceremony.  An honor guard of firefighters and police officers handed the American flag that had flown over the site in the days, weeks and years after that September 11th day, to family members, survivors and children before it was returned home.

As a DCS chaplain, soon it became clear that our concern needed to be shared with the volunteers and staff of the museum. Even though 600 volunteer docents who are survivors, victims’ family members, volunteers and first responders and the staff spent months training and preparing for their work in the museum, being in the emotional-laden space is very difficult.  I was honored to meet with members of the staff and offer suggestions how individuals and the general staff can process the emotions that flow every day.  Self-care is key to the important work they provide.

Out of the rubble have risen a testimony, a witness, a reminder, a mausoleum, and a museum.  What has ascended is a testament to courage, kindness and human resiliency.  As a member of the board and chaplain for Disaster Chaplaincy Services who has been committed to the victims, survivors and site since Sept. 11, 2001, I am proud of the work preformed by DCS chaplains and of the professional compassion offered to those who our chaplains touched.

Rabbi Janise Poticha
DCS Board Member, Leadership Team, Chaplain

 

 DCS-NY Responds to East Harlem Building Collapse

March 18, 2014
Disaster Chaplaincy Services continues to respond to the explosion and collapse of two buildings which occurred Wednesday morning in East Harlem, NYC.

Shortly after the explosion, DCS chaplains were deployed to the Reception Center at nearby PS 57 to offer spiritual aid to those affected. With the need to prepare the school building for class and to house the surviving victims whose homes were destroyed, DCS chaplains aided with the transport to the shelter at the Salvation Army facility. In addition, a DCS chaplain attended to families at the New York City Chief Medical Examiner office. DCS chaplains worked round the clock providing spiritual care at the shelter until it closed on Friday evening. DCS continues to provide spiritual care at the the New York City Resident Service Center in East Harlem, and will continue as long as the need is present.

 

DCS-NY Responds to Metro-North Derailment

December 2, 2013

Disaster Chaplaincy of New York (DCS-NY) was requested to deploy chaplains in response to the December 1, 2013, Metro-North train derailment in The Bronx, NY.   Coordinating with the Mental Health department of the Red Cross New York, DCS deployed chaplains on site.  First indications were that this was a massive incident with many casualties since the train was travelling at 82 miles per hour going into a sharp turn where the speed drops down to 30 mph.  The projected initial response could have been up to 50 days of rescue and recovery.  After the initial deployment of chaplains, DCS organized a second tier of stand-by chaplains in the event the rescue and recovery was of a long duration.  As details became clear, DCS was informed that although there were 4 fatalities and 70 injured, 11 of who were critical, the scope of the disaster was not as broad as was initially indicated.  The injured were taken to 5 local hospitals; some were discharged that same night.  The chaplains of DCS were immediately on site and at Jefferson High School in the Bronx where a reception center was set up for the families of the deceased and injured.  During the hours the reception center was open DCS chaplains were present for family members and staff.

Collaborating closely with Metro-North Railroad representatives and the Red Cross, DCS chaplain’s provided spiritual comfort and emotional relief throughout this disaster.

A Theatrial Response on  the First Anniversary of Superstorm Sandy

November 25, 2013

Rev. Joshua Ellis talks with Rockaway resident following the reading of “Job in Rockaway”

In commemoration of the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Disaster Chaplaincy Services (DCS) is collaborating with acclaimed Brooklyn-based theatre company, Outside the Wire, for free performances of dramatic readings of selected passages from the ancient Biblical Hebrew poem THE BOOK OF JOB, featuring a large number of major film, theatre and TV stars, including Tate Donovan, Eric Bogosian, Kathryn Erbe, Zack Grenier, Harris Yulin, Gloria Reuben, Reg E. Cathey, Adam Driver, Tamara Tunie, and Outside the Wire’s artistic director, Bryan Doerries.  The performances are taking place in venues and communities that were directly impacted by Superstorm Sandy in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.

Following the readings, Doerries facilitates town-hall style discussions about the impact of Hurricane Sandy upon individuals, families, neighbors, pet owners, caregivers, first responders, medical providers and the communities at large, using THE BOOK OF JOB as a springboard.  Doerries opens the discussion with questions about the parallels between Hurricane Sandy’s devastation and THE BOOK OF JOB (in this presentation as translated by Stephen Mitchell), in which a righteous and prosperous man loses everything — his family, his livelihood and his health — after a great wind annihilates his home.

DCS chaplains, including Rabbi Jonathan Pearl, Rev. Joshua Ellis and Rev. Joseph Parrish, have served on the panels and/or have been available to individuals in the audience who needed spiritual care in response to issues raised by the dramatic presentations and post-performance discussions.  In addition, DCS chaplain Rabbi Janise Poticha is hosting a performance at her synagogue, Mount Sinai in Massapequa.

Outside the Wire artistic director Brian Doerries explains the mission of these  performances, each one named for the community in which it is performed [JOB IN ROCKAWAY, JOB IN LONG ISLAND, etc.]:

“The ancient Hebrew poem, the Book of Job, is about human suffering and we want to use it as a catalyst for town hall discussion about the lasting impact of Hurricane Sandy.  By promoting open dialogue we hope to foster compassion, hope and positive action.  Outside the Wire is engaging a number of faith and community-based organizations to join us in our efforts and get involved.”

DCS was initially approached to participate in this “JOB IN ….” series of theatrical readings because of its involvement with the New York’s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).  VOAD is an umbrella group of organizations working together to strengthen their capabilities to relive human suffering cause by disaster.  DCS is co-chair of NYC VOAD’s Emotional and Spiritual Care Committee.

At these performances, DCS has worked side by side with the Mental Health Association of New York City, offering spiritual and mental health support as well as referrals to audience members who seek out help.

 

DCS  presents panel at Harlem Ready Summit

September 26, 2013

Disaster Chaplaincy Services of New York was a partner in the Harlem Ready Summit, held on September 25th. The summit was sponsored by WHCR 90.3fm and the Harlem Community Development Corporation.  DCS Board President Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt  presented on the panel “Emergency Planning for Houses of Worship”.

Rev. Burson & Rev. McNatt at Harlem Ready conference

DCS Chaplains Rev. Anita Burson and Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt at Harlem Ready Summit. At right is Robert Ponce, Summit Chairperson

DCS  Testifies at New York City Council Committee on Public Safety on June 20, 2013

June 14, 2013

Disaster Chaplaincy Services of New York was one of several organizations which testified at the New York City Council Committee on Public Safety on 20 June, 2013. The hearing, chaired by Peter Vallone, Jr., focused on the Hurricane Sandy After Action Report and Recommendations.

Rabbi Janise Poticha, speaking on behalf of Disaster Chaplaincy Services, testified to the enduring voluntary work performed by the organization’s trained chaplains. During and in the aftermath of Sandy, chaplains for the organization volunteered at many shelters and additional locations including working with the Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations and the Department of Sanitation’s employees. Rabbi Poticha concluded her testimony by expressing Disaster Chaplaincy Services commitment of providing spiritual care to New York’s five boroughs and beyond.

 

DCS MOBILIZES ITS CHAPLAINS AND TRANSITIONS TO INCIDENT COMMAND STRUCTURE IN RESPONSE TO HURRICANE SANDY

REV. JULIE TAYLOR SERVING AS DCS INCIDENT COMMANDER, PLANNING “JUST IN TIME” TRAINING SESSIONS FOR CHAPLAINS NEEDED FOR LONG-TERM RESPONSE

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DCS Chaplains On-Site For World Trade Center 10 Year Anniversary

DCS chaplains were well utilized at this year’s 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. On Sunday, September 11, twelve DCS chaplains worked both at the World Trade Center site for the 10th Anniversary Commemoration event and at the Family Support Center located in the Salvation Army in Manhattan.  These chaplains made contact with over 450 family members and responders impacted by the attacks. For the following two weeks, beginning on 9/12/11, DCS chaplains joined American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers in...

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Ten Years After 9/11

9/11 Disaster Chaplains ALMOST 10 YEARS HAVE PASSED: HEALING, HOPE, CHALLENGE & RESILIENCE An Interfaith Discussion, with Reflection & Refreshments Hosted By: The Episcopal Parish of Trinity Church & St. Paul’s Chapel August 4, 2011 – 6:00 PM 74 Trinity Place in the Parlour Room Come Share: What Memories of your Efforts? What Worked well and what not so well? What impact did interfaith chaplaincy efforts have on your own perspective? What are the ongoing unmet spiritual care needs in our community? Where are we all now...

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Disaster Chaplaincy Services Responds to the Bus Accident in the Bronx

Beginning this morning Disaster Chaplaincy Services (DCS) volunteer chaplains have been providing support to the families of the fatal bus accident that occurred earlier in the Bronx...

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Help DCS move into 2011

As 2010 comes to a close, we bring you our year in review.

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2010: DCS’ Year in Review

The year 2010 was full of exciting new opportunities as well as difficult deployments. DCS started out the year with a response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12th. DCS chaplains were deployed to local schools and reception centers to support refugees as well as the local Haitian community during those difficult first weeks. In a joint effort with the American Red Cross of Greater New York, one of our chaplains, Rev. Noster Montas, who is originally from Haiti, was able to deploy aboard the USNS Comfort off the coast of...

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DCS chaplains continue to provide spiritual care

Disaster Chaplaincy Services (DCS) today continues to be mobilized and chaplains are providing spiritual care to all people affected by yesterday's tragic aircraft collision over the Hudson River.

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Plane and Helicopter Collide Over Hudson River

Disaster Chaplaincy Services (DCS) today has been deployed to provide spiritual care to all people affected by the tragedy of the helicopter and plane collision over the Hudson River.

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DCS Continues to Support People Affected by Airline Disasters

Disaster Chaplaincy Services' (DCS) on-call chaplain was activated at 3am on February 13th, 2009, and sent immediately to Newark International Airport to support those affected by the crash of Continental Flight 3407.

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