October 1, 2001

Students Can Use Web To Help N.Y.'s Bravest

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Less than twenty-four hours after terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11 — when most people were still reeling from shock — two Cornell students and a friend found a way to positively respond to the tragedy.

Matt Gewolb ’04, Michael Bifolco ’04 and Guy Crawford, who attends State University of New York at Stonybrook, founded the website, www.nine11.org.

Gewolb said that the site was created with “the goal of raising money to help the surviving families of firefighters that lost their lives in this heinous attack on freedom and democracy.”

“We hope to raise one million dollars,” Bifolco added.

Nine11 — partnered with Gewolb’s record label, LLJ Records — sells T-shirts with the Nine11 logo as well as music from the LLJ label.

Although Gewolb noted his emotions matched those around him, he didn’t feel paralyzed by the attack but energized to act that night. Gewolb called up two of his friends looking for help.

“The night of the attack, I was so upset. I thought, what can I do?” Gewolb said.

Gewolb’s answer was the website, which at 9 a.m. the next morning was up and running.

“This is an attempt to funnel energy. I can’t stand by and watch this happen. I’m not an E.M.T., I’m not a firefighter. This is my skill. This is the least I can do,” Gewolb said.

It costs $75 to buy the rights to a specific domain name. That was only the beginning of the costs for the Nine11 venture.

With the support of over six sponsors, Gewolb promises he and his co-founders are, “paying out of our own pockets.”

“We will make sure there are no administrative costs. When you buy one of our t-shirts for $25, $25 is going to these people,” he said.

Response to the site has been more positive than Gewolb and Bifolco had ever expected.

“The response has been overwhelming. We even got an order from Israel,” said Gewolb.

Although he couldn’t specify the exact amount, Gewolb said funds raised were “already in the thousands.”

Working with the International Association of Fire Fighters, the money raised will go directly to a troop of firefighters’ families that lost 19 of their 20 members.

“We want to target this specific group. We’re making a personal connection,” Gewolb said. The co-founders of the site have plans to expand the site and better involve the Cornell community.

“We are reaching out to the Greek system and hosting a large outdoor concert in October,” Gewolb said.

Organizers are also beginning talks with the Ithaca Fire Department. “The department and union are organizing responses. This incident has really underscored the vulnerability of emergency workers in my mind,” said Brian Finucane ’03, a Cornell student and a volunteer firefighter for the Ithaca Fire Department.

“I think this incident highlights the basic nature of emergency work. There are a lot of variables in any given incident, some of them you know, most you don’t,” Finucane said, “I don’t think most of [the firefighters] even gave a second thought to rushing into the building. That was their job, what they were trained to do.”

“All Americans are my brothers and sisters. An attack on one is an attack on all. This is the least I can do,” Gewolb said.

“I think our responsibility as citizens transcends being students. We are in a very beautiful and remote place with the luxury of having space to think. We have to get involved,” Corey Antis ’02 said.

Archived article by Christen Eddy