NEW YORK – Edie Lutnick can't watch images of Hurricane Katrina's devastation for very long. The memories it evokes are too painful.
"How do you watch people saying that their loved ones are missing and look at pictures of missing people and not have it be reminiscent of 9/11?" said Lutnick, whose brother Gary was killed in the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (search).
As the families of Sept. 11 victims prepare for mourning rituals to mark the fourth anniversary of the attacks, many have begun offering hurricane survivors the same kind of support they received from strangers.
"We realize that our pain is something that we can help heal by giving back," said Valerie McGee, whose husband, Brian McGee, died on Sept. 11. "It's time to give back."
The relatives of firefighter Stephen Siller plan to create the "9/11 Families for Katrina Relief Fund" this week, Siller's brother Frank said. Siller's widow has already donated two trailers full of water to victims in the Gulf Coast, he said.
Another group, the Coalition of 9/11 Families, may pair with one or two charitable institutions to start another relief drive.
At least one victim's relative has already traveled to the Gulf Coast. Joe Downey, the New York Fire Department's (search) battalion chief of rescue operations, is one in a 36-member team of New York emergency personnel sent to the hurricane region last week. His father, deputy chief Ray Downey, was killed on Sept. 11.
"We're going to address this with the same force and intensity as we addressed 9/11," said Lutnick. She is the director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund (search), which represents families of Sept. 11 victims who worked at the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage in the World Trade Center, as well as some smaller firms.
McGee, a member of WTC Family Center, said she is finding the stories of Katrina survivors looking for loved ones the hardest to take.
"Families are scattered. People you can't find. Same as in New York," she said. "People never saw or heard from their loved ones again."
She said her group is starting with cash donations to the American Red Cross and contemplating other ways to help Katrina victims. For now, she said, "money is the most important thing."
Other family members said they were shocked that help hadn't come more quickly to the thousands of stranded storm victims in New Orleans.
"I think it's really heartbreaking," said William Doyle, who lost his son, Joseph Doyle, on Sept. 11. "Unfortunately, these people aren't getting the help that the 9/11 families got."