By Laura Brown
Triplicate staff writer
The night of Sept. 10, Claudia Frances fell asleep with the television on. The news broadcaster's tenor alerted her from sleep the next morning. As she woke, she watched in horror as the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
"Here I was on the 12th floor of this high-rise convention center in San Diego," said Frances whose daughter called immediately after the first attack. They watched in disbelief together as the second plane struck.
On Oct. 24, Frances, a Red Cross volunteer arrived in New York City to serve a three-week call of duty as a family services worker. She worked 10 to 12 hour days for seven days strait with only a one-day break between weeks. She helped families displaced from their homes or jobs by the destruction around the World Trade Center.
"Some of them not only lost homes but also their means of an income. So they got hit twice. It had a huge economic impact on the city," said Frances. Damage stretched over a 10- to 12-block radius, shutting down businesses and forcing people to leave their homes.
Frances assisted with families basic needs such as money for food, rent and utilities in temporary housing. Many people were living out of motels throughout the city as they waited for something more like home.
After being promoted to supervisor, Frances began to review as many as 30 to 40 cases a day. The center she worked in saw as many as 250 a day.
Frances will be one of the guest speakers at tonight's Patriot Day ceremony held at the fairgrounds. She says she is embarrassed by the attention she has received. "I'm just a molecule in connection with the whole big picture. It takes all of those little molecules to make a whole."
Seeing Ground Zero in person was sobering and unforgettable for Frances.
"When you went down there you were immersed in a three-dimensional world. Not just sight, but smell, touch ... sensing everything. The closer you got, the more acute the smell was and things were still flying through the air," said Frances. She said the temperature at the site was in the triple digits because of the fires that continued to burn five to six weeks after the attacks.
Being at the scene of a national disaster like that has changed Frances' view of the world. "You work with people whose lives are totally decimated and they are trying to find normalcy in their lives." She no longer worries over trivial daily stresses and she says she has become closer to her family.
Emotional effects of the event still continue to linger.
Today, as the country celebrates the anniversary of Sept. 11, Frances observes the importance of not forgetting.
"For our country, I think it's a day for us to realize the value of patriotism and the appreciation of diversity in the community and focus on embracing diversity and not being judgmental of other people," said Frances.
The Patriot Day ceremony begins at 6 p.m. tonight in the outdoor arena at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds.