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May 2002
Future CUNY Facility on Governors Island Announced by Governor and Mayor.
Student Media Conference Addresses "Attack Mentality" after 9/11
Baruch Orients City Council Freshmen
Turning "D"s into Degrees: A CUNY Student Tells How
Life Resumes 500 Feet from Ground Zero
A Diaspora of CUNY Students into Halls of Power
A View to a Krill: Antarctic Expedition by College of Staten Island Scientists
The City University Attracts Talent from Near and Far
CUNY, PSC Announce Agreement on a New Contract
Chancellor Goldstein Initiates New Efficiencies, Greater Student Access to Learning Technology
Pulitzer Prize to Louis Menand
Executive Leadership Program Inaugurated
First Betty Shabazz Chair Appointed at Medgar Evers College
City University Retains New Fundraising Consultant
Former Congressman Dellums to Speak on AIDS at CCNY
City Tech Scholarship For All Four Seasons
Major CCNY Grant for Remote Sensing

Student Development, Enrollment Conference by Mayor

ReBuilding New York

New City College Biomedical Engineering Department

"Trailer Heroes" of BMCC Build at CCNY

A Life of Laura Bridgman—Disabled Pioneer in Education

Exotic Bird Alights at The Graduate Center

 
 

Life Resumes 500 Feet from Ground Zero

Frederick Kaufman, professor of English and journalism at the College of Staten Island, describes finding disaster and media fame in his back yard.

It took eight men in white jumpsuits and respirators five days to clean our apartment. Cost: $8,500. The bill for dry cleaning came to $16,500.

I live with my wife and two children just 500 feet from Ground Zero, in the closest residential building currently re-certified for occupation. I stood on my balcony and watched the buildings burn. I was on the street when they came down. I was blown out of my house for the following three months, but nothing had paralyzed me until that dry cleaning came back. There was every tie and towel and shirt and sheet and belt and bikini we owned, each on its own wire hanger, encased in plastic. I couldn't do anything but look it at all lying in piles on the beds, the couches, the chairs, the floor. Everywhere but in the closets.

My Introduction to Journalism students at the College of Staten Island were wonderful: no one mentioned I was wearing the same outfit day after day. Instead, they wanted to know if my family needed a place to stay. When class first resumed, I asked them to vote and they decided to continue the semester with the original syllabus. We had some reading to catch up on and an article in arrears, but if they were determined to focus on academics, I would try. Perhaps they understood better than I what an optimal moment it would be to study journalism, to grasp the visceral relevance of our printed daily bread.

And September 11 did have unforeseen consequences: It threw our class discussions deep intothe compact essences of headline, "deck" (journalist's lingo for an explanatory subheadline), and caption. It propelled our explorations into the glittering surfaces of leads, the balanced intricacies of transitions, the compressed elegance of the "nut-graph" (the paragraph that reveals the essence of a story ). All-too-familiar old concepts like "image"and "content" and "objectivity"suddenly demanded our full attention. We began to revere the transparent agency of active verbs.

A galvanized student newspaper sought to articulate what our lives had become through articles ranging from thoughtful commentaries about loss to furious polemics about U.S. foreign policy to a flattering profile of the President of CSI's Muslim Student Association.

In the meantime I was gaining a new perspective on the art of the interview¤what it feels like to answer rather than ask all the questions. Every day, more reporters called. First it was USA Today (we made the cover), then New York Newsday (a feature), then the New York Times (front page, below the fold). The Associated Press placed a shot of the family in local papers from Florida to Oregon. We said yes to German Public Radio, yes to the Amsterdam News, MSNBC, CBS, C-SPAN, NY1.

Lens Craft on the Terrible Day
As soon as the Twin Towers were hit, John Montalvo Jr.'s photographer's instincts kicked in. He grabbed his Nikon and began a marathon photo shoot, walking from the Bronx down to Ground Zero, sometimes deftly skirting checkpoints. One angry police sergeant caught him and confiscated four precious rolls. The powerful results have given the Queensborough Community College major in photography and fine arts—he's also taking some City College photography courses—some well-deserved exposure: a spread in the Queens Courier and a show in Jersey City. Seen here are images captured on Montalvo's 9/11 trek: a policeman with bullhorn near City Hall, two firemen across the street from Ground Zero, and a crane already at work at Ground Zero late in the afternoon.

We said no to Inside Edition, no to CNN, no to ABC. It got to be too much, but the calls, like the crowds that surged around our building, kept coming. At one point I was tempted to agree with Gerson Borrero (editor of El Diario/La Prensa), who declared at last month's CUNY Media Conference that he was sick of the whole story. It had made the front page too many times. It was dead.

I wish it were so. I wish it was yesterday's news, but it isn't. At our most recent co-op board meeting, six months to the day after the events the El Diario/La Prensa editor has grown so tired of hearing about, we were treated to an hour-and-a-half lecture about the impending threat of low-micron lead particulates, pulverized glass, vaporized mercury, and rampant mold.

It isn't that the City's Department of Environmental Protection or the Federal Environmental Protection Agency won't tell us if pollutants have exceeded standards; it turns out there are no residential standards for indoor air. So our household prepares for the next spate of expulsions. Out go all the couches, all the shades and drapes and window treatments. Every single upholstered barstool and ottoman must hit the sidewalk, everything but the floors. Should they go, too?

For those of us who live downtown the story continues. Only the clothes have been put in the closet.