As a Deaf woman, the first thing that came to my mind when the Twin Towers collapsed was, “Who is going to communicate with the Deaf New Yorkers? How will we know exactly what happened and what will happen next?”
Thanks to text pagers, Deaf people communicated with each other and kept each other informed. Whatever was happening, the Deaf stayed in touch on a one-to-one basis and they updated each other as to the missing and the injured. They told each other, with fingers flying on tiny keyboards, how many firefighters were missing and how the Police were handling the street level crises arising from the terrorist strike. Many of my Deaf friends told me their Hearing families and friends outside of New York would page them and ask where they were when it happened and if they were OK.
For the literate Deaf who know how to spell and who can type on an American keyboard, that sort of instant text communication was fine, but what about the Deaf from other countries who did not know how to spell in English? New York City has a huge immigrant Deaf population and many of them have no language whatsoever. What about the illiterate Deaf and the Deaf who are developmentally disabled or mentally ill or are so poor they cannot afford a text pager? How would these disenfranchised Deaf ever get a feeling of knowledge and safety?
I found the answer in Project Liberty. Project Liberty is a program sponsored by the State of New York that helps anyone and everyone who is having a hard time coping. Project Liberty paid me, as a Deafness professional, to travel to Deaf people’s homes and talk to them one-on-one and in groups about what happened on September 11th.