NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – “It’s so sad what’s happening,” says Andrew, who is part of the community at Chapel Haven Schleifer Center that participated in an important trip last spring that was accessible for those of all abilities.
He – and a group from the school and independent living facility – traveled to Israel, inspired by its beauty and history.
“Maybe some of the places – I don’t know – aren’t there anymore,” he says.
“It’s been gut wrenching,” says Rachel McEachern, an employee who also went on the trip.
The group is now writing letters to families in the war-torn country.
“I am so sad to hear the crisis you all are having,” says Andrew, reading from his note.
They also listened to a webinar, featuring people in Israel, working to evacuate those with special needs, conditions such as dementia or autism, from the chaos.
“Preparedness in times of emergency means you have the right methodology prepared in advance, you know what to ask, you know what to do,” says Michal Rimon, the CEO of Access Israel.
Jamie Lassner, an EMT who survived 9/11, is the Executive Director of Accessibility Accelerator. He ran the webinar from New Haven and is aiming to raise awareness and funds for the Purple Vest Mission, which is assisting the elderly and those with disabilities during emergency situations like the war in Ukraine and now in Israel.
“It’s not a scoop and run,” he says, referring to a method used by EMTs. “We have to remove them, their apparatus, whether it’s a bed or a wheelchair, and everything else associated with their survival.”
“We are now saving lives, saving lives,” he says, noting that the group is trying to sustain itself through this war on terror.
“I am Jewish, I have Palestinian friends, this is humanity against the worst of worst in humanity,” he says.
He learned during 9/11 to live one day – one hour – at a time.
“Our goal when this is all over is to continue our work in Arab countries, Israel, in countries where we don’t necessarily have diplomatic relations because somehow or other with disability all our hearts beat the same way,” he says with emotion.
The letters will be sent soon. Organizers hope residents might even end up with pen pals they can support through this difficult time.