ONE MONTH BEFORE the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Supreme Council introduced a new initiative called the Knights of Columbus Second Responders Program that will provide support to the victims of natural or manmade disasters.
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Announced Aug. 2 by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson at the 129th Supreme Convention in Denver, the Second Responders Program will help local councils prepare to serve as “second responders” by providing food, clothing and shelter to those affected by disasters. Retired New York Fire Department Capt. Alfredo Fuentes, a Knight who survived the 9/11 attacks in New York City, will serve as the program’s director.
“With Capt. Fuentes’ leadership, it is my hope that every state will develop a strong disaster response team, made up of current and retired first responders and other volunteers who will be able to deliver hope when it is needed most,” said Anderson in remarks about the program’s inception.
At present, program organizers are working to establish a framework for the initiative as Fuentes and other members of the Supreme Council staff identify individuals and K of C units that would be willing to assist if and when a disaster occurs.
“It has always been my belief that we have an unbelievable untapped resource, and that untapped resource is the retired firemen, policemen, EMS people and skilled people such as nurses, doctors, etc. And I just felt that if we used this resource to assist during a disaster, it would just be invaluable to the federal government and to the citizens themselves,” said Fuentes.
Some councils, based on their geographic locations, already have some experience dealing with disasters, Fuentes added. For instance, councils in Florida are often adept at hurricane preparedness, while those in the Midwest may have experience with tornadoes.
Though still in its early stages, response to the program so far has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Fuentes. For now, organizers are limiting the initiative to the United States, though Fuentes would like to see it expanded in the future to all the countries where the Order is present. In addition, there is virtually no limit to the amount of aid that the Knights can offer, from providing food and water to rescue workers, to granting use of council halls as forward operating bases, to keeping tool depots in each state that are accessible to first responders and volunteers.
“I like to say that we’re building the bridges we walk on,” said Fuentes.
More information about the program will be made public as it becomes available. In the meantime, Fuentes is thrilled to be combining two of his great passions: disaster response and the Knights of Columbus..
“Coming on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, it’s just wonderful to know that we don’t forget,” he said. “It’s wonderful to know that we’re prepared and that we’re getting even more prepared, that we’ve learned some lessons. That’s a wonderful thing.”