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'Point Thank You' - A place of gratitude and support for 9/11 responders

In the days and weeks following September 11, 2001, many people felt compelled to help. One of those people was Lenore Mills from Lackawanna County.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — It's a walk that Lenore Mills from Dunmore has done many times over the past 20 years.

This time, she's carrying a cart full of photographs and mementos she's collected from her time spent along the West Side Highway in New York City.

"We stood in the winter, in the snow. I used to get the car mat out of my car and stand on that," she recalled. "We stood over there"

"Over there" is where Lenore first spotted a group of people that would come to be like a second family to her.

It was September 22, 2001, and she had just arrived in Manhattan after watching a week's worth of news coverage about the attacks on the World Trade Center, and deciding she couldn't sit at home and do nothing.

After walking around the city looking for ways to help, she saw a small group holding signs saying things like "thank you" and "keep it up" as they waved and cheered to the vehicles transporting rescue workers to Ground Zero about a mile down the highway.

"I picked up a sign, and that was it," Lenore said. "The rest is history. It was too compelling to not come back."

So she did come back.

Lenore returned to the spot that became known as "Point Thank You," every weekend that year, bringing signs made by the students in her art classes in the Scranton School District. And what kept her coming back, was seeing smiles across the faces of first responders as they stopped to enjoy what was likely the sole bright spot in their day.

"When they would stop, they would cry, they would hug, and they would tell us how much that we were appreciated, just for holding up a sign!" Lenore said. "We were trying to thank them, but they were thanking us."

Years later on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the group received a letter from a police officer who worked at Ground Zero, describing how he experienced "unspeakably difficult situations" during that time.

'"But at the end of every long, hard day, I would drive up the West Side Highway to the encouragement of the West Side High crew. I cannot tell you how much that renewed my spirit and determination each day.'"

For as many days as the first responders were at Ground Zero, Lenore and her group were at Point Thank You, right up until May of 2002 when the cleanup was finally complete.

"That was the saddest day because we knew that was it. It was all over, and we didn't know what the future would hold, what they would do down there at the WTC if we would ever see each other again."

Some people, she never did see again. But a small group of them have returned to Point Thank You every year on the anniversary of 9/11 doing exactly what they did for months on end 20 years ago.

Saying "thank you" is a simple message, but judging by the pins and badges given to Lenore by emergency workers, one that meant a great deal.

Click here for more Newswatch 16 coverage remembering 20 years since September 11, 2001.