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We Serve CA: Anita Ahuja, Victim Compensation Board

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Learn firsthand from California public servants on what public service means to them and why they’ve dedicated their careers to serve California.

Anita Ahuja, California Victim Compensation Board, Manager for Mass Violence Response

Sometimes, our calling finds us. That can certainly be said about Anita Ahuja, manager for the mass violence response team at the California Victim Compensation Board.

“I never imagined that I would be working with victims of mass violence and terrorism. That was never part of the plan,” Ahuja said in our We Serve CA series. “But when 9/11 happened, I realized that this is really my path. We had the planes that were hijacked that day, all four of them, that were headed to California. And that’s when we learned we had hundreds of people in the state that were impacted.”

The aftermath of September 11, 2001 put Ahuja and the Victim Compensation Board into action and imprinted an unforgettable experience.

“There was a couple … they came up to me and they looked me directly in the eye and they said, ‘Anita, what did we do to deserve this?'” Ahuja recounted. “They had lost their adult son in one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center. He was 29 years old and I knew there was nothing I could say or do to take that pain away.

“I just looked at them and I said, ‘You didn’t do anything to deserve this, but what I do know is that we will help you get through this.’ And that really is what we’re about. We will help people get through some of the worst times in their lives.”

It was through that experience and many others that have occurred since then, that Ahuja honed her skills.

“We don’t want these incidents to continue, obviously,” she said. “But we are better prepared today because … we’ve had to respond to so many of them, especially lately with the San Bernardino and … Las Vegas shootings.”

“I’m just so grateful that I can help people recover from pain and really move to a place of healing … and know that we’re part of that healing process.”

#WeServeCA

CalPERS is proud to feature the men and women who serve the state of California, in this special series, We Serve CA. If you have a great story to tell about what public service means to you and how you serve the state of California, please share it with us. We’d love to hear from you!