Major Federico and wife Marie Larrinaga, of the Salvation Army.

20-08-2013
Salvation Army Major Federico Larrinaga and his wife Marie were part of the second wave of helpers at “ground zero” just hours after the Twin Towers were struck and collapsed on September 11, now they are in Majorca, having recently taken over as leaders of the Salvation Army on the island. The couple, accompanied by their 16-year-old son Federico Jose, have only been on the island three weeks, “we're still getting acclimatised and finding our feet, but it's a beautiful island and being bi-lingual is a great help. We thought the congregation would be well balanced, Spanish and English, but it's predominantly English however.” The Salvation Army only set up a Spanish wing last year, so there is plenty of work to be done. But apart from the new challenges in Majorca, for Federico and Marie, whose 20-years in the Salvation Army have been mostly served in New York, broken by a tour of Puerto Rico, their posting here will, in the short term , also be used to reflect on what has happened in their lives over the past 18 months. “We can step back a little here and look at the big picture,” Federico said yesterday. As Evangelism Director in the Eastern Territory, Federico was busy preparing for a normal day teaching his students theology and about the responsibilities in the ministry at 8.45am on September 11. By 1pm, Federico, Marie and hundreds more Salvation Army soldiers, students and staff from training colleges were at ground zero. “From our college there were 170 and we worked in groups on a round-the-clock shift system for the next two weeks at ground zero,” Federico said. In total eleven divisions from 300 Salvation Army churches, from Maine to Kentucky, responded to 9-11. “We'll never forget the drive to the scene, you could not see further than say half a block ahead as this huge thick black cloud of smoke, ash, dust, rubble, paper blocked out and rained down from the sky, it was just a huge shock. “It was a huge tragedy but also a beautiful experience for the ministry to be able to help and make a difference. “It was a wake up call for all of us, a chance for everyone to be hands on. It changed our way of thinking, to appreciate life and people more,” Federico and Marie said. September 11 also changed the Army's method of teaching. “Since then, while people's attitude to life has changed, we're teaching that we're here now and can't count on tomorrow, everything has become more realistic.” Many of Federico's students were also thrown in at the deep end “straight into the fire.” Few of the first year students had started their ministerial education and were new to the ministry on September 11 when they were called to help. Interestingly, such a tragic experience failed to throw students off their path. “Many came back, in some ways thankful for the experience as it served to confirm their commitment to God and that they belonged in the Salvation Army, helping people.” Many of the soldiers who worked round the clock and ground zero are still helping the families of the victims and the neighbourhood recover. The Army has set up a number of charities to raise money to financially help families who have lost members and the main providers, while there are still many, including the fire service and police, whose emotional and psychological wounds have yet to heal and the Army continues to help ease the pain of New York. “New York is still a city of mixed emotions,” Federico said.

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