By Betsy Scheinbart
The Mets are lending their home to the relief effort at the World Trade Center, allowing firefighters and rescue workers from across the country to shower and shave in their locker rooms and sleep on cots near their baseball field.
Shea has been transformed into a center of hospitality to the rescue workers, offering hot meals around-the-clock since Sept. 12 and providing a location for volunteers to sort donated clothing and other supplies, which are also accepted at any hour in the main parking lot outside Gate C.
Firefighters and rescue crews from as far away as Ohio, Memphis, Tenn., and Chicago, Ill. are spending their nights on 310 cots set up inside the stadium, said Joyce Shepard, a Red Cross volunteer from Bay Terrace. Shepard is among the mental health workers who counseled rescue workers at Shea last week.
The rescue workers are also making use of the facilities in the Mets exercise and locker rooms, Shepard said. And firefighters from Ohio got the opportunity to play baseball with the Mets Friday, while the staff of the major league team has helped coordinate volunteer efforts at the stadium, Shepard said.
Borough President Claire Shulman commended the Queens volunteers Friday and called for more donations to the relief effort in Lower Manhattan. Items which are especially needed include respirator masks, tube socks, thick gloves, hardhats, goggles, T-shirts, rain slickers, flashlights with batteries, work boots and towels.
Volunteers from Aramark food service and the Red Cross have been serving hot food to rescue workers around the clock since 7 p.m. Sept. 12 at Gate B, just outside the stadium.
Carmen Coppola and Mariela Reyes, both from Corona, served food last week to firefighters, police officers, emergency service workers and other rescue workers who have been searching for survivors in Lower Manhattan since the terrorist attack Sept. 11.
Coppola and Reyes, Aramark employees who volunteered to work at Shea, are both missing friends who worked in the World Trade Center.
Reyes said eight of her friends — including her closest friend — worked in the Twin Towers and were still unaccounted for Thursday.
“I’m been so depressed, because tomorrow is my birthday and we had plans to out,” Reyes said last Thursday about the plans she had with her missing friend. “Now we can do nothing.”
Coppola and Reyes were joined by volunteers from the Red Cross many of whom are students at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. The school is just a few blocks north of where the World Trade Center used to be and many students witnessed its destruction.
“We saw the whole thing,” said Shu Lin, a Stuyvesant student from Flushing. “Most of us saw the second plane hit. We saw people jumping from the buildings.”
Lin and other students said they were glad to help while their school remained closed Thursday.
“We just want to help out,” said Michael Moy, a student from Flushing. “I just want to do more.”
Moy said other youth volunteers from area high school helped out last Wednesday, but had to return to school last Thursday. High school students found their volunteer option limited by their age.
“We tried to give blood, but we are too young” said Alice Chen, a Stuyvesant student from Manhattan. “We just decided to come here.”
Other volunteers at Shea said it seemed as if the firefighters and others were reluctant to leave the scene of Tuesday’s assault on the Twin Towers.
“We practically have to tear the people away from the job — nobody wants to leave,” said a Shea Stadium security guard who declined to give his name. He said firefighters came from as far away as Florida last Thursday to gather at Shea and before going to Lower Manhattan.
Matt Whittle, who works for the Mets, said he would like the word spread to firefighters, police, Emergency Service workers and civilian volunteers that Shea is ready to offer help.
“Most of them don’t want to leave” the destruction site, Whittle said.
Cots were set up inside Gates D and E, with plenty of water and juice available there, too, but no one was taking advantage of the temporary refuge Thursday afternoon.
To make a financial donation to the Red Cross, please call 1-800-514-5103 or go to www.nyredcross.org. To receive crisis or grief counseling from the Red Cross please call (212) 889-6652.
Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.