Survivor of 9-11 no longer lives to work

OTTAWA — Esti Fogel was once ill and housebound, relying on the goodness of family and friends to help her with basic needs such as meals and child care. Once recovered, she resolved to “pay it forward” and help others whenever possible.

Three and a half years ago, Fogel assembled some friends and formed Ten Yad (Lend a Hand), a group of volunteers whose mission is simply to help those in need.

In its relatively brief existence, Ten Yad has grown by leaps and bounds. Now a registered charity with an army of volunteers, the organization remains unaffiliated and independent but works co-operatively with other community agencies to meet common goals. When individuals or families are facing acute, life-altering situations such as illness or death – or the happy occasion of the birth of a child – volunteers will step in and provide food, transportation, child care or whatever is needed.

On Jan. 29, Ten Yad held its inaugural Friend-Raising Gala at the Canadian Aviation Museum. The gala showcased the organization and introduced it to many members of the community who may not have heard about it. Another fundraising effort, the Ten Yad cookbook was also launched.

In the midst of a large hall filled with airplanes, 350 people were seated at elegantly decorated tables enjoying the klezmer and Yiddish-inspired tunes played by the Central Band of the Canadian Forces Jazz Quintet.

The keynote speaker, New Yorker Ari Schonbrun, told his remarkable tale of “lending a hand” as a survivor of the 9-11 collapse of the Twin Towers in New York. A senior executive at Cantor Fitzgerald, Schonbrun, he said that of the firm’s 662 employees, “only one person walked out without a scratch, and you are looking at that person… 658 of my friends and co-workers were brutally murdered, simply because they were sitting at their desks, no other reason.” Three others were badly injured.

Schonbrun described the series of “coincidences” on that fateful day that led to his miraculously surviving the explosion and how he helped a co-worker who was badly burned to escape from the building and get to a hospital for treatment.

“I was plucked out of a burning building… and somebody asked me why. I need to talk to people and tell people that we live in a world today that is going in the wrong direction and we aren’t doing anything about it. We need to make a change,” he said.

His personal priorities have drastically changed in the past 10 years. He no longer lives to work, he said, but takes time to enjoy his family and to appreciate life.

 “The next time somebody calls you and asks you to help,” said Schonbrun, “just answer, Ten Yad.”

For more information about Ten Yad, go to or call 613-618-0485.