On September 11, as for so many, Kerry McGinnis’ normal routine was abandoned when it became obvious that pet-owners in the area surrounding the World Trade Center needed her help.
McGinnis works for Manhattan’s Humane Society — an organization that helps place pets who, for whatever reason, can no longer stay with their owners. As kennel manager, her normal duties include “feeding and caring for the animals and cleaning out cages — my job involves a lot of cleaning.”
Residents of Battery Park and the area surrounding the World Trade Center were not allowed back to their apartments, and distraught pet-owners started calling the organization for assistance. McGinnis and other members of the Humane Society went to Pier 40, where they met the Urban Park Rangers who would accompany them on their pet-rescue missions. These missions often took place at night, when they wouldn’t be in the way of the emergency services. As the electricity was usually out, they frequently found themselves climbing high-rise buildings in the dark only to be allowed access for perhaps five or ten minutes to recover an animal.
As a pet-owner herself, McGinnis understands what the owners went through. “These were people who lived in the area, most of whom went through the explosion and ran for their lives. When they couldn’t get their pets, they were understandably very upset. A pet can be like a family member, and people got such comfort from getting their pets back.”
Kerry’s most salient memory from that time is the image of people coming together and doing anything they could to help. “The most amazing thing was seeing so many thousands of people pulling together. At Pier 40, somebody might say that they needed something and an hour later it would be there — somebody would bring it — whether it was food, water, whatever.”
Reinforcing the idea that small kindnesses can make a huge difference, she recalls that “people would stand along the West Side Highway, and if they couldn’t do anything else, would just give moral support and drinks. Two women drove all the way from California with dog food for the shelter.” ♦