September, 2001 - The tragic disaster on September 11th in New York City has deeply affected not only Americans, but all of us around the world. Those close to New York City stared at television screens in disbelief as events unfurled before their eyes that day, but one young sumivets was much closer to the scene than most.
Ivan "Yash" Skala,
a 31 year old CYM member from Passaic, New Jersey, is a paramedic as well as a Port Authority Police officer, serving at Manhattan's Lincoln Tunnel. On the morning of 11 September, Ivan reported to work at 7 A.M. Approximately two hours later, he and fellow officers were among the very first who were notified about an emergency at the World Trade Center immediately after a plane struck that building.
According to an account by the The Record, a local New Jersey newspaper, a friend and fellow officer named Robert Greff said he was there when Ivan Skala volunteered to enter the buildings of the WTC. "I helped snap on his Scott Air Pack and tighten the belt. The last thing I did was I grabbed him by the face and told him to be careful. I had all intentions of seeing him afterwards."
Ivan entered the building in a race to assist in the disaster unfolding on the floors above. In the ensuing minutes, as an inferno began to build in the floors around the plane crash and as the entire building began to become unstable, he continued to work assisting others within that building. Approximately one hour later, at 10:05, the south tower collapsed, plummeting into the streets below and leveling the building. As the day progressed, it became clear that although many members of the Port Authority Police had made their way to safety before the collapse, Ivan was among the missing.
Port Authority Police officers and other rescue workers were soon digging through the rubble, trying to locate those that had been trapped in the fallen buildings. As the search continues, Ivan's family, friends, fellow sumivtsi and everyone who knows him continue to pray in the hope that he will be found safe and soon.
Olia Figol, past president of Passaic's CYM oseredok, holds back tears as she speaks about her friend since childhood. "Yash is a very giving, generous person. He works two jobs, always helps anyone he can, in any way he can. He always volunteers to help CYM and the Ukrainian community. He has taught First Aid at summer camps and has assisted with security as well, whenever our children travel to Zlet in Ellenville in the spring, and at the Ukrainian Center here in Passaic." Figol went on to say, "He is a wonderful, wonderful friend to all. We all pray that he's safe."
At St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Passaic, friends and family gathered in the days after the disaster to pray for Ivan and others trapped beneath the World Trade Center. Other Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox communities around the United States have also held services and vigils. Sumivtsi in Passaic and other oseredky nearby have gathered to pray and to be together during such a difficult time. Today, sumivtsi around the world share in their prayers of hope for Ivan, and in thanks to all those who have volunteered to help in the search for those still missing.
Ivan's immediate family and his entire CYM family ask you to please remember Ivan Skala in your prayers.