Bayside pair hopes to heal Sept. 11 wounds

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Like so many others who watched the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks unfold on television last year, Baysider Sonya Ridley Walker was horrified by the graphic images of the World Trade Center’s collapse and the large death toll from the attacks.

A year later, Walker has used her grief as motivation for a new community project designed to promote healing.

“I wanted to be able to do something, I just didn’t know what to do,” said Walker, a retired American Airlines flight attendant. “I just want people to come together so we can all make a difference.”

Walker and her partner, Stephen Dorsey of Bayside, have teamed up with the 111th Precinct Community Council to create “A Dollar to Heal,” a campaign to funnel money donated by the public into local community organizations that need it.

Unlike other fund-raising efforts, which ask the public to give money for a specific cause, Walker and Dorsey said “A Dollar to Heal” will allow residents to fund projects and organizations that matter to them, such as police precincts, firehouses, volunteer ambulance corps and schools.

“The idea is very simple,” said Walker, who grew up in southeast Queens. “People are really responding to it.”

Donation cans will be available to the public in stores throughout Bayside, Little Neck and Douglaston as well as the Bayside-based 111th Precinct, Dorsey said.

The money collected “will be feeding back into the community,” Dorsey said, adding that about 25 merchants have signed on as part of the project. “A lot of people want to help. If each community acts and works for their own community, it would make a big difference. The community will see the results.”

Walker, who said she knew one of the flight crew members killed on Sept. 11, 2001, said “this is needed in every community.”

Dorsey and Walker said they want to use funds collected by “A Dollar to Heal” in the communities where the money was raised to buy equipment and supplies for police, firefighters and volunteer ambulance corps or computers and other equipment for schools.

The money will go to “anything and everything needed in the community,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey said he would like to see the project come to life in Bayside and other parts of northeast Queens but eventually wants to expand “A Dollar to Heal” boroughwide.

Last year terrorists hijacked four planes on Sept. 11, slamming two into the World Trade Center’s twin towers and one into the Pentagon. It is believed that passengers on the fourth plane, which crashed in a rural Pennsylvania field, revolted against their hijackers. In all, about 3,000 people were killed.

Walker, who also wrote a song about the attacks, said her experiences as a flight attendant heightened her grief over the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I honestly don’t think there was any crew member who wouldn’t want to take that plane into the ground to save as many people as possible,” she said.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:23 pm, October 10, 2011
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