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Local woman worked for peace as towers fell

By Vince Briggeman, Special to the Daily Planet
Monday March 25, 2002

Jeanine Magill shared in the disbelief when she first heard news of the September 11th attack. 

But while most Americans sat glued to the television, struggling to make sense of the situation, Magill tried to contact family here in the United States from a phone center outside of Chennai, India. 

“I had no idea about the scope of what happened,” said Magill, a 31-year-old freelance finance writer in Berkeley. “When I first heard about it, I had a picture of a Cessna in my mind. 

“Everyone rushed to the internet to find out what was going on. The lack of information definitely made it a different situation than in the U.S..” 

At the time, Magill was ten days into a three-week stay as a member of Global Volunteers. The Minneapolis-based project sends volunteers on three-week work visits, at the volunteer’s cost, to impoverished areas of the world. Magill’s duties included teaching English at a Christian orphanage near Chennai. 

Chennai, formerly called Madras, is the capital of the Southeastern state, Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu children with whom Magill worked, ranging from ages 3 to 16, were “untouchables” within the Hindu caste system. Southern India is predominantly Hindu.  

Although the distance from her family was a concern, Magill said the support that she and her team — composed of American, British and Canadian citizens — received from the locals eased some of their immediate worries. When the volunteers managed to gain access to television coverage, part of the crew watched CNN reports from the home of a Muslim family.