Ground zero volunteer horrified by Scientology vultures

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Scientology's doublecross

Sat, 2 Mar 2002

A woman I know worked as a volunteer at Ground Zero in Manhattan five days after the 9/11 disaster. Below are her personal observations about the unauthorized presence of Scientologists at the official command center, and how she managed to get them booted out. I'm withholding her name to protect her from Scientology harassment of the sort we're all too familiar with.

-- Dave Touretzky, dst@cs.cmu.edu


I thought you might appreciate my own personal recent (nightmare) experience with Scientologists -

Through my membership with an international children's charitable organization that coordinated with the Red Cross in response to the 9/11 disaster, I found myself working with a mental health/mass care group assigned to Ground Zero five days after the attack. (The fires were still burning and gaining the proper Federal ID, etc. required to access "The Pile" and interact with the rescue workers... police and fire units and medical volunteers... was lengthy even with Red Cross sponsorship.)

In spite of the mind-numbing horror of the site itself, balanced by the amazing and countering displays of humanity among those on site, one of the largest jolts of emotion that I had was when I entered the official command center (federal and local agencies) housed in a school at the foot of the rubble. The lobby area was overrun by Scientology reps (a dozen or more?) offering their brand of 'bearing witness' in exchange for minor first aid (foot powder, bandaides, massages, cots).

The displays of their pamphlets and books spread strategically throughout the area was marketing at its most agressive. They all donned brightly colored t-shirts and, striking me as eerily inappropriate at the time, seemed to be festive in their demeanor.

A mental health volunteer and I immediately sought out the "central command" of the relief effort and made a formal complaint. Long story short, no one had apparently authorized their presence and in fact, Guilliani, wisely, had publicly and formally strictly forbidden religious groups from any visible presence..... after all, wasn't it this kind of fanaticism that inspired the insanity of the attacks?

No one knew how they had gotten access and they were routed out later that day. I had been moved to soul-depleting nausea when I glanced at some of the posters and flyers depicting space ships and aliens (with comic book style graphics) and considered that their ability to promote this view of "reality&qot; at a time when all of us where questioning our reality as being no different from Bin Laden's inspirations and applications.

I still consider their presense as "intellectual and spiritual terrorism" that was taking opportunistic advantage of people (police and firemen and I assume family members at the Pier site) who were still in the shock of having, for example, watched "15 of my friends who were rushing the building in formation to help get people out and seeing the building crush them ALL" (direct quote from one of the NYPD officers I spoke with.)

This is not to say that there weren't other religions represented by individuals (met one priest who was sensitive enough to remove his collar before dispensing psychological / spiritual comfort along with eyewash and footpads), but they operated as individual volunteers simply availing themselves to anyone who wanted to speak with them. No religious tracts, bibles or other paraphanelia visible anywhere.

The Scientologist's were the only ones sucking the much needed air out of the site by promoting their agenda. They were Scientologists FIRST and human beings SECOND. Oh yeah, that's consistent isn't it?

(name withheld)

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