A 9 11 Survivor’s Story

August 31, 2015 by karen

Jean & Dan Potter
Jean & Dan Potter

It’s been nearly 14 years since the attack on the Twin Towers, but we can remember that day like it was just yesterday. This is especially true for those who were in the World Trade Centers and the surrounding buildings when they were hit, as well as their family and friends.

Club Fit member Jean Potter was working on the 81st floor of the North Tower that day, just below where the first plane hit, and walked down the stairs to safety. Her husband, Dan, a New York City firefighter, raced to the towers and, while looking for Jean, helped others find their way to safety. Jean and Dan were finally reunited at a Chinatown firehouse later that day.

Both Jean and Dan firmly believe that their faith in God got them through that morning. “I felt that God was with me as I was walking down those stairs,” says Jean, and Dan agrees. “Before I found Jean, I prayed to God for the clarity to know what to do, and He got me through.” In the ensuing days, they reluctantly decided to leave their Battery Park apartment in New York City, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site. “It was a war zone,” Jean said, and the memories were simply too overwhelming to ignore. They moved to Westchester and eventually began a new life in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where they had family, but it was not easy. “I’m a city girl!” says Jean. “ It took a lot for Dan and I to leave our city life and our friends.”

Both built new lives, Jean counseling inmates at a local facility. “I came to understand that incarceration is a second chance at life,” she says. Dan began working with local fire departments and devoted time to the local Red Cross. “Everything that has happened to us is part of God’s plan. This was our own second chance, and He put us where we needed to be.” In 2011, Jean published By the Grace of God: A 9/11 Survivor’s Story of Love, Hope, and Healing, chronicling their 9/11 experience and their subsequent spiritual journey. Jean says, “The book is our story, but is also meant to honor those who perished, and share our strong message of faith.”

In 2012, Jean and Dan felt the pull back to New York and decided to return to the area, settling in Shrub Oak. Both have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, in addition to Dan’s injuries from that fateful day, causing his retirement from the FDNY, but they have achieved a new feeling of peace. “As I keep saying, God puts us where we need to be, and everyone has embraced us here,” says Jean. “We’re home.”

Soon after settling in, Jean joined Club Fit Jefferson Valley. She had always incorporated fitness into her routine, and goes so far as to say that her good health and fitness helped her get down those 81 floors! Today, staying fit is just a healthy way to spend her newfound free time. “I just love it at the club, there’s such a positive energy there!” She is a particular fan of Zumba, and wants to get more into yoga. Dan is active with the planning and emergency committees of their condominium in Shrub Oak, and Jean has started journaling again. “It’s amazing how people continue to reach out to us,” Jean says, so despite her desire to slow down, she may have more work ahead of her!

The road that Jean and Dan Potter have traveled is truly inspirational. They may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but they took that negative experience and used it to help others, through their continued willingness to give to those in need as well as offer guidance through Jean’s book. If you are interested in reading more about the Potters’ experience, By the Grace of God: A 9/11 Survivor’s Story of Love, Hope, and Healing is available at www.amazon.com, as well as at most bookstores and libraries.

Support Connection Director Kathy Quinn

August 28, 2014 by karen

 

Support Connection Executive Director and Club Fit Member Kathy Quinn
Support Connection Executive Director and Club Fit Member Kathy Quinn

In this day and age, turning a negative into a positive is definitely a reason to celebrate. This October, local nonprofit Support Connection is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first Support-A-Walk for Breast & Ovarian Cancer. This grassroots event today draws close to 10,000 participants, and laid the foundation for the organization itself, which opened its doors in the Roma Building in Yorktown Heights in September of 1996.

One of the driving forces behind Support Connection is Executive Director and Club Fit member Kathy Quinn, who was inspired to get involved after attending that first walk in 1995 in support of a close friend who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She found out about the walk while researching support services for her friend, and was moved by the turnout, which quadrupled the expected numbers from 200 to 800. She reached out to walk organizers Nancy Heller and Rich Adamski, and together with other supporters came up with the idea to use the funds raised to start up Support Connection as an educational and emotional resource for breast and ovarian cancer patients. The rest is history. “The unique thing about our organization’s model is that all of our professional Peer Counselors are cancer survivors,” says Kathy. “When we began, our idea was to give patients access to others who had gone through the same experience, and could truly understand their situation.” Support Connection has stayed true to that model to this day.

“Because we work very hard to operate within a very modest budget and use volunteers to assist with fundraising and outreach, nearly 90 percent of all funds raised goes directly to funding our free, confidential programs and services. I am blessed every day to see what a difference is being made, how a difficult situation can be helped by offering an anchor to someone in need.” Today, the number of support groups has grown to twelve, and services are offered nationwide. What started as a local resource is now an educational and emotional support system for thousands, with well over 5,000 people benefitting from the services offered to date. In our area, many take advantage of the one-on-one and group counseling, wellness seminars, toll-free educational teleconferences, and social workshops offered, including a yoga class held on Saturdays at Club Fit Jefferson Valley, for which Club Fit donates space.

“Club Fit has been a staunch supporter for many years, also sponsoring our golf outing,” says Kathy. “It’s really wonderful how they promote good overall health throughout our community, to all populations and age groups. Our survival is based on the support we get from local individuals and businesses like Club Fit.” Kathy, a Shrub Oak resident, is passionate about Support Connection’s mission, often working nights and weekends. “It’s so rewarding to see the end product of the work we do,” she says. “I come back every day for that reason.” She also devotes time to her husband, four children and two grandchildren, and tries to take time to take care of herself, using the Fitness Center and Aquatics Center at Club Fit. “I now understand the value of places like Club Fit, not just for the cancer patient, but also for the entire family,” she says. “Going to the gym is a step in the right direction for anyone physically, but it’s also a great stress reliever for those either going through or supporting a family member or friend going through cancer treatments.”

As successful as Support Connection has been, there is still much work to be done. “Our ongoing challenge is that while people value the support we provide, they don’t put a dollar amount on it,” says Kathy. “So much of the money that is raised in other nonprofits is used to fund research, but the emotional support our programs provide is also so critical in a cancer patient’s journey.” Kathy’s friend Isabel, who was the reason for Kathy attending that first walk, passed away not long after Support Connection was established, but Kathy considers her the inspiration that keeps her going. “Every day I work in loving memory of Isabel,” she says. And at every walk, the thousands of participants and volunteers are working and walking to honor those who have won as well as those who have lost the battle against breast and ovarian cancer.

For more information on how you can get involved or how you can access the services offered by Support Connection, visit www.supportconnection.org, or call the Support and Information Hotline at 1-800-532-4290. You can also register for or make a donation to this year’s Support-A-Walk, to be held at FDR State Park in Yorktown Heights on Sunday, October 5th, on the website. If you have never attended, Kathy highly recommends that you come, if just to experience the camaraderie. “As big as our event has become, the wonderful thing about it is that we are all there as one big family, celebrating and paying tribute to loved ones and letting people dealing with cancer know we are walking right beside them.”