Those Who Lost Loved Ones Sustain Memorial Charities

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the billions of dollars donated to the families of those killed have largely been spent, but the charity work hasn't stopped.

Now the families themselves have taken the stage. They have started scholarship funds and international relief efforts, raised money for memorials to honor the dead and launched organizations that have coalesced into multifaceted crusades for a variety of issues, including skyscraper safety, airline security and national security.

Although it's difficult to gauge exactly how many there are, it's clear that hundreds, if not thousands, of such initiatives have been started by families of the nearly 3,000 killed in the attacks.

And the number keeps rising.

"It's trying to bring redemption out of what happened," said Eugene Steuerle, who lost his wife, Norma, in the attack on the Pentagon. Steuerle and two dozen other Sept. 11 families and friends created a group last year, Our Voices Together. "That's what all of us, at different levels, are trying to do."

Mental health experts are labeling this phenomenon "post-traumatic growth" -- when those affected by trauma seek meaning in the tragedy by turning grief into action.

"It's a common occurrence," said District therapist Duane Bowers, who specializes in treating those who have suffered traumatic loss. Victims are "able to look at this negative event and somehow get something positive out of it."

For some, the efforts focus close to home.

The family of Mark McGinly, who grew up in Vienna and died at the World Trade Center, gives annual scholarships to graduates of Virginia high schools. Entrants are required to write a short essay on their similarities to McGinly, a 26-year-old metals trader who squeezed every ounce of fun out of life, said his family.

In the past five years, the family has raised close to $500,000 through an annual golf tournament and dinner for the scholarship program, said McGinly's father, Bill McGinly.

"It's far exceeded anything I thought would happen," he said.

For others, the attacks have spurred a broader mission.

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