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4 Years After Attack on Pentagon, Survivor Support Continues

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Sunday, August 28, 2005

The record $2 billion that Americans donated to help the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks is mostly gone now.

Many groups, such as the $500 million September 11th Fund, have handed out all their money and shut down. Others, like the $1 billion American Red Cross Liberty Fund, have spent most of their resources and scaled back sharply.

But the local Survivors' Fund, which received $22 million in donations to help the victims of the Pentagon attack and their families, is still around.

Its latest annual report, released Friday, shows that it spent just more than half of the money it raised and that it has $9.7 million remaining.

Modeled after a fund set up after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City 10 years ago, it was intended to provide long-term assistance to Pentagon families and survivors.

As the number of years since the attacks have grown, the number of clients receiving assistance from the Survivors' Fund has shrunk. Of the 519 families enrolled in the Survivor's Fund, 244 of them are no longer using it, the report said.

But 275 households are still receiving services.

Among the current recipients: a Pentagon employee who worked on the opposite side of the building on the day of the attack but who has been plagued by survivor's guilt, and a local support group for a half-dozen American Airlines employees who were based in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

The fund is paying counseling costs for the Pentagon employee and his wife, as well as for the American Airlines employees' support group participants.

Also among those still receiving assistance: 150 people younger than 21.

Many children were in their teens when they lost their parents or other loved ones in 2001 and are now headed into adulthood, said Kathy Whelpley, a vice president for the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, which manages the fund.

"That's always a tricky time for young people to begin with," Whelpley said, "but even more so when they have experienced a traumatic event or significant loss."

Since December 2001, when the Survivor's Fund opened after receiving 22,000 donations from around the world, the latest annual report says, $2 million has gone to pay for counseling and other expenses to meet the emotional needs of the Pentagon families.

Another $6.1 million has gone to financial assistance, and $1 million has been spent on medical needs. The remainder has gone for education and vocational expenses.

Not all the recipients of assistance have been satisfied.

A survey last September of those the fund has helped found that although 89 percent reported high levels of satisfaction, a "significant number" complained about communication problems, turnover of case managers and a lack of clarity about funding decisions.

The fund has responded by issuing quarterly reports to those receiving assistance and holding regular open forums in the Washington area for fund recipients in the evenings, on weekends and at lunchtime, Whelpley said.

"We're there; we're available to meet with people and to answer questions and to provide an update on the fund," Whelpley said. "So if anyone has any questions or concerns, it's a place for them to voice them."

Whelpley said that administrators hope the fund will last until the end of 2007.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company