Hawai'i hosting Sept. 11 survivors, rescue workers
|||Armed forces win new fans after Sept. 11|
|||Sept. 11 anniversary events|
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
In the year since the Sept. 11 attacks, Hawai'i has hosted hundreds of survivors, rescue workers and family members of those killed in the terrorist acts.
Last December, 600 New Yorkers arrived in Hawai'i for a week of rest and recuperation. Their trip was well-documented as the guests made many public appearances, including the University of Hawai'i-Brigham Young football game and visits to the USS Arizona Memorial.
But another 600 New York fire, police, emergency or recovery workers and their families were expected to visit the Islands through the end of this year.
"Some folks said they did not expect the warmth and hospitality that they received. It was not something they truly expected," said Gail Chew, a vice president with the Hawai'i Visitors & Convention Bureau.
Chew said many of the visitors were able to talk with others involved in the tragedies and share their grief and concerns. But many, she said, talked about hope.
"I remember one girl telling me that her father had always talked to her about wanting to teach her how to surf," Chew said. "But that when she was here, because he was gone, she learned how to surf from a member of the (Honolulu) Fire Department. She said she's sure that that was her father's hand in all of that."
The invitations were made by Gov. Ben Cayetano last November when he was in New York for the American Society of Travel Agents World Congress. The visitors were selected by the New York mayor's office.
Dozens of airlines, hotels, car- rental companies and other businesses have donated services to accommodate the guests.
Chew said the visits have made a lasting impression on New Yorkers and the people here who touched their lives.
On a recent visit to New York City, she said, she saw a fire station displaying a sign made by people connected with the Friends of Hanauma Bay.
A husband and wife, both New York police officers, also sent Chew a huge box of toys last Christmas with instructions to hand them out to needy children in Hawai'i.
"We're viewed as this place where people can find some peace and rest and be rejuvenated of spirit," Chew said. "Even after these trips are gone, there will always be connections between us."