This year the entire country commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. Local businesswoman Cyndi Hunoff says she remembers the day as if it was yesterday.


“The morning that it happened, I was sitting reading the paper and my daughter came out and said one of the buildings had been hit,” she said.

So like many Americans, they turned on the TV in time to see the second plane hit.

“I was so intrigued… could you imagine what that would be like,” she said. “I can’t imagine the panic.”

Cyndi says she went to work and couldn’t wait to get home because she didn’t have a TV in her downtown Yankton store.

In the days and weeks that followed many wondered what they could do to help the families that were directly affected by the acts of terrorism.

Cyndi wanted to give back and help.

By the close of 2001, Cyndi was preparing to take her daughter Stacie to Washington, D.C., to work as a senate page. The thought of going to New York City intrigued her even more, but she didn’t want to go as a tourist.

“I had a friend that worked at the Pentagon with the Marine Corps, so I called and asked him and he had no idea. So I called the Chamber of Commerce in New York City and asked them ‘Who’s in charge of the volunteers?’”

First they directed her to the Red Cross, but because she didn’t have any medical training. Cyndi was told to contact the Salvation Army. She filled out mountains of paperwork in order to volunteer.

In January 2002, with everything squared away and arrangements made it was time to head east. After dropping her daughter in D.C., Cyndi and her youngest daughter, Abbie, headed to New York.

Cyndi, a self-described “midwestern country girl,” had a tough time navigating through the streets of New York City, especially in pickup truck a friend of her’s had rented for her.



Streets were blocked off the closer you got to the site. The national headquarters for the Salvation Army had told Cyndi to just show her badge and the authorities would let her through. Seems simple enough, but every turn they madethey were met with roadblocks and cops telling them to turn around or go the other way, she said.


Eventually Cyndi and Abbie made their way to the hotel — thanks to a very understanding officer.

For the next six days Cyndi worked at the Hard Hat Café, talking and listening to the workers during their breaks. The Hard Hat was a giant structure that reminded Cyndi of the DakotaDome. It was open 24 hours a day for the workers and anyone else in the area of what would become known as “Ground Zero.”

Her job was to “walk around and see if (anyone) needed a napkin or a bottle of water or something,” but most of all to lend a friendly ear if someone needed to talk.

The interior of the building was kept spotless, Cyndi says partly because these men were coming from the “pits” and the Salvation Army wanted to provide them with a clean, comfortable environment.

“They told us that if we saw a clump of dirt on the ground don’t pick it up and throw it in the garbage ‘it could be the remains of somebody,’” Cyndi adds.

Cyndi says she was touched by the dedication that drove these workers to do what they did day after day — if they could maybe find a badge, a billfold or a wedding ring that could take it back to a loved one.

Cyndi had met a lady from Ireland who came to work with the Salvation Army. The day before Cyndi met her, this lady’s job was to sort body parts.

“I couldn’t have done it. Maybe I would have at the time, but if you ask me now I couldn’t,” she said.

In the days after 9/11, Cyndi said everyone on the streets would stop and watch any passing fire truck in reverance of their hard work and dedication.

“Even (now), when tourists see a fire truck (in New York City), they stop and give it such respect,” Cyndi said.

She was amazed at the people, especially police officers, that would stop and thank her when they saw her Salvation Army badge.

“Any body… the people in the area that worked there, just on a normal basis or near the World Trade Center, when they saw the Salvation Army badges they just said ‘Thanks for coming,’

‘Where are you from?’ and ‘Thanks for your support.’


Before she could report for duty at the cafe, Cyndi first had to report to the national headquarters for the Salvation Army.

“We were respected so much it was remarkable.”


Cyndi has some amazing stories of people she met while working. Stories of inspiration and dedication to helping find something, even the smallest personal belonging that could be returned to the loved ones.

Cyndi says she could have stayed there for months because everything was amazing.

Since her first trip there Cyndi has been collecting everything related to Sept. 11.

“I can’t get enough of 9/11.”

On the 10th anniversary Cyndi admits to watching all the shows she could.

She has even made trips back to New York over the years. Most recently, Cyndi went to New York to visit her eldest daughter, Melanie, and her son-in-law.

Cyndi says before she went and even after she went the first time people would ask her “Why?”

“People thought I was crazy, but I never want to say in my life ‘I should have done it,’ because you’ll kick yourself in the teeth along the way,” she said. “So when this came up I thought about it and I’m not going to look back and say ‘I was so close in Washington D.C.’ It was the best experience.”