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Victims of Hate, Now Feeling Forgotten
No Help From CharitiesFrom her home in suburban Chicago, Anya Cordell began to hear the stories of the attacks, the victims and those they left behind, and she became intrigued. A community activist and writer in Evanston, Cordell had written a book called "Race: An Open and Shut Case."
Seeking attention and money for families of backlash murder victims, she has written letters, sent e-mails and spent hours on the phone to national and local charities, only to be turned away and told to seek help somewhere else.
There has been plenty of talk, Cordell said, about America's renewed sense of patriotism and the overwhelming spirit of compassion and sharing that sprang from the attacks. But when asked to share with the hate crime victims' families the millions of dollars collected over the past year, the charities have all balked, Cordell said.
She is attending today's ceremony in Arizona, one of 800 people expected for an interfaith memorial service in Red Mountain Park that will include speeches from religious and government leaders and a candlelight dinner.
"It's absurd for everyone to give lip service and not do anything," said Cordell. "These are people who were just going about their daily lives. But the charities have given every explanation of why their deaths don't count as direct victims of September 11."
Representatives of the national charities say the issue is not so simple. The September 11th Fund, as of mid-August, had collected $506 million and distributed about $336 million, the majority through cash payments to families of victims and people who lost their jobs or businesses. The group said that its intent has always been to do something for families of hate crime victims, but that proving direct links to the attacks has been difficult. Also, they said, the issue was clouded because families such as the Patels received temporary assistance from a state fund to assist crime victims.
"We were the only group to say that we wanted to help these people," said Jeanine Moss, a spokeswoman for the fund. "What our board didn't say is how we're going to do it."
The Red Cross said that the murders -- though abhorrent -- did not match its intent for collecting the money.
"The Red Cross and the Liberty Fund are there to help people who were directly affected," said Sharena Summerall, a Red Cross spokeswoman. "It's a bit of a stretch to say that [the murders] wouldn't have happened without September 11."
But Amardeep Singh, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in New York, said there is no stretch in noting the significant increase in the number of hate crimes -- including beatings and vandalism -- reported after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Although there are no firm nationwide statistics, Human Rights Watch has reported increases in many areas. In Chicago, for example, four hate crimes were reported against Arabs and Muslims in 2000, compared with 51 in just the three months following last September's attacks.
"We're seeing the repeat of a continuing trend," said Singh, who has been studying the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. "It happened after the Persian Gulf crisis, the Oklahoma City bombing and after the downing of [TWA] Flight 800 in 1996. . . . Initially, the government made a tremendous effort to publicly condemn hate crimes and keep them from occurring. But the issue has sort of gone under the radar since then."