January 31, 2002

Cornell Volunteers Visit Ground Zero

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While most Cornell students were preparing for finals last semester, University volunteers made two trips to New York City to see the World Trade Center (WTC) site, better known as Ground Zero. On Dec. 3 and Dec. 8, they brought with them good wishes from groups all over campus.

It was an experience they said they would never forget.

“The pictures on TV don’t do the site justice for the devastation and loss of humanity,” said Doug Burt, dispatcher with Cornell University Police Department (CUPD) and treasurer of the CUPD Union.

CUPD patrol officer Ellen Brewer organized the two trips and went with other CUPD officers and dispatchers, members of Environmental Health and Safety, Ithaca College staff, volunteers from the Judicial Administrator’s office, the Transportation office and the Reserve Officer Training Corps program (ROTC).

The group of over 30 people went to deliver a wide variety of foods, clothes and memorials from over 55 Cornell affiliates and Ithaca-area businesses.

Upon seeing the supplies and tributes Cornell brought, the officers working at Ground Zero were overwhelmed, said Karen Covert, executive assistant to the Judicial Administrator.

“They were speechless, only saying thank you and hugging us,” Covert said.

Some of the supplies delivered were shirts from ROTC, the Alumni House, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and The Cornell Store. Community Commons sent box lunches for the Ground Zero workers while some of the other groups provided donuts, juice and other items.

The volunteers also delivered bags of toys for children who lost their parents on Sept. 11 and the CUPD Union donated $1,000 to those hurt by the events of Sept. 11.

While at the WTC site , the volunteers visited the memorial sites where they placed tributes given to them from the entire campus.

Members of the Duffield Hall construction project gave a safety helmet signed by workers, while the Dairy Store sent a sweatshirt with signatures and good wishes from the employees.

Students residing in Donlon Hall wrote their messages on a wall hanging, which was place on the memorial wall. The ROTC put together a binder of pictures, poems and notes according to Dean Lyon ’04, who went as a representative of the army section of Cornell’s ROTC.

“We took that [binder] along with a wreath,” Lyon said.

When everything was arranged and placed down on the memorial walk, the Cornell memorial tributes encompassed a 30 to 50 foot area, according to the thank you letter sent to those who volunteered and donated items.

As part of the visit, the volunteers had the opportunity to see the actual WTC site from a viewing platform.

“There was total silence on the platform,” Covert said, “The emotions you could feel were deadening.”

“You don’t know what you were feeling but you knew that you never felt it before,” she added.

Despite personal loses, many fire fighters and police officers continue to work there everyday.

“They are true heroes,” Burt said.

Covert spoke with one police officer who had taken Sept. 11 as a day off but normally would have been in the WTC at the moment when the terrorists controlled planes hit.

“He lost 14 friends then,” Covert said. “He lost not only co-workers but also his closest friends.”

Those that visited the site said the trip is something they will never forget.

“It’s a picture in my mind that will never go away,” Covert said.

Archived article by Luke Hejnar