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NEW YORK -N.Y. Mayor Giuliani made a plea that Oregonians simply could not ignore. While “bright lights, big city” and Oregon are not commonly linked together, this past Columbus Day weekend changed all that when a delegation of more than 950 Oregonians landed in the Big Apple to show their support. “Why not organize a convoy of Oregonians to travel to New York to show their support, spend some money, and let the world know Americans are not afraid”, said Portland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Chairman Sho Dozono. “We are hurting other Americans by being afraid and millions of lives are being upended.” In less than two weeks Dozono with the help of some prominent business and political leaders organized the “Flight for Freedom”, which is the largest organized group to visit Manhattan since the September 11 tragedy. Oregonians traveled at a bargain price of $379 plus tax for airfare and two nights lodging at the Waldorf-Astoria or $434 for three nights. Both symbolic and practical, the trip gave Oregonians a chance to provide emotional support and boost the economy here, which has lost an estimated $163.27 million in visitor revenue in only the first two weeks after September 11. Credit Union Association of Oregon President Gene Poitras, Portland-based Point West Credit Union Mortgage Manager Pam Getty and Administrative Assistant Sandy Kempel represented the credit union portion of the large group that descended on the city in 62 flights over the holiday weekend. “We’re so far away from New York but the devastation and all those lives that were lost just touched us and we felt we had to do something,” said Getty. “So when our Mayor Vera Katz sent a message that the best way to help is to travel and spend money in New York we leapt at the chance.” It was Kempel’s first trip to the city and she was “thrilled to be part of something so moving.” “I couldn’t believe it,” said Kempel. “Complete strangers were coming up and hugging us and thanking us just for coming out to New York. I can’t tell you how many times I teared up over the weekend.” Wearing their Oregon loves NY shirts and pins, Getty and Kempel stopped by Union Square to sign the wall and pay their respects at what has become a makeshift citizens’ memorial. The pair also participated in the Columbus Day Parade, took in a few Broadway shows, visited Little Italy, Chinatown, went shopping and visited Actors Federal Credit Union. “We heard that a lot of actors have been out of work since the tragedy, we know how it can impact the credit union, and we just wanted to show them that they are not alone,” said Getty. Bearing special made-in-Oregon treats ranging from maple syrup and cheese to a CD-opener imprinted with the Point West logo and a card signed by the entire Point West CU staff, Getty and Kempel also treated the Actors Federal Credit Union staff to New York-style pizza for lunch. “The unexpected visit from the people of Oregon was deeply touching,” said AFCU President/CEO Jeff Rodman. “More than once it brought tears to our eyes. Seeing people care enough to set aside their daily lives, pack up their bags and come here on a moment’s notice to show support – I can’t tell you how much it means to us.” To Getty and Kempel’s surprise, during the luncheon such actors as Dominic Chianese, who plays Uncle Junior in the HBO series The Sopranos; Jason Danieley of the Broadway show The Full Monty; Hope Davis who stars in the movie Hearts in Atlantis; and soap star Gil Rogers, who played Hawke Shane in the Guiding Light and Ray Gardner in All My Children stopped by to thank the pair. AFCU also made sure the pair experienced a backstage glimpse of a rehearsal hall, an audition studio and an Actors’ Equity Association Eastern Regional board meeting where they received a standing ovation from the AEA counselors and staff. “I’m a big Broadway fan. So for me to be able to meet and speak to these people and then for them to give us an ovation- it was just so emotional,” said Getty “After Dominic Chianese helped load our suitcases in the cab and as we were pulling away from AFCU I just burst into tears because everyone was just so good to us. This has truly been such an inspirational, meaningful trip.” Organizers for the Oregon trip estimate the visitors dropped more than $1 million into the economy during the four day holiday weekend. Dozono is hoping that the idea will catch on in other communities to encourage travel to New York and elsewhere. “Ordinary actions by ordinary people is what moves the economy,” said Dozono. [email protected]

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