University Director of Media Relations
there was shock, then grief and anger. The terrorists who
struck down the World Trade Center delivered their devastating
blow to our nation, our city, our University. No one was spared
from the aftershocks. But from this core of darkness, in the
days that followed, light emerged.
New York City
Tech, an official emergency response center, was up
and serving many of pedestrians fleeing the WTC attack.
Photos by Michele Forsten
of candles illuminating Queens College at a twilight memorial
service. Nursing students from Hunter College tending to the
bereaved and grief-stricken at a shelter near ground zero.
A caravan of students, faculty, and staff from John Jay College
crossing Tenth Avenue to donate blood. Custodial workers,
sleepless, doing triple shifts at Borough of Manhattan Community
College, dispensing food, water, rubber gloves and breathing
masks to rescue workers seeking respite from the horrific
rubble a few blocks south.
Those images were only part of an outpouring that came from
all corners of the five boroughs, every CUNY college campus.
Across the University, students, faculty and staff stepped
forward in ways big and small. In what was literally a trial
by fire, their stories of sacrifice, generosity and kindness
revealedand reaffirmedthe University as an integral
part of the city it serves in good times and bad.
Chancellor Matthew Goldstein articulated these ideals in a
letter to the University community shortly after the twin
towers vanished from the skyline. We should serve,
he wrote, as an important resource as the larger society
copes with terrorism.
front lines were the staff of Borough of Manhattan Community
College, its main campus located a few blocks north of the
Trade Center. Students and faculty were evacuated, but many
staffers chose to remain behind with BMCC President Antonio
Perez to assist the rescue effort.
Those who remained reported that dense plumes from the explosions
and building collapses traveled north to the perimeter of
the campus. Ash and dust inches deep settled midway up the
entrance ramp, but no further. This must have been what
it was like in Pompeii, said Scott Anderson, the Colleges
acting vice president for administration, who supervised an
operation that assisted hundreds of police officers, fire
fighters, and paramedics.
A second BMCC team staffed Fiterman Hall, home to classrooms
and the CUNY Research Foundation. The off-campus 17-story
former office building is just steps from the Trade Center
complex. At 10:05 a.m. the south World Trade Center Tower
and debris rocked the surrounding area, including Fiterman.
Suddenly a volcano was coming, said Ronald Spalter,
the Universitys deputy chief operating officer, who
went to assist the BMCC team at Fiterman. It was like
a lava cloud. We couldnt see. We couldnt breathe.
We were lucky to escape into the cellar. Eventually
the team safely exited the building.
minutes, tens of thousands of dazed and dust-coated people
were slowly moving to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge. Within
seconds students, faculty and staff from New York City Technical
College responded. City Techs student nurse practitioners
quickly ministered as many of the injured as they could. Others
carried out large jugs and dispensed cups of water. Victims
gulped down fresh air from oxygen tanks from the colleges
The victims crossed in two waves, said Provost Jo Ann La Perla.
The first group was in shock. Later, the victims who
were crossing the bridge had more serious injuries, many bleeding
from contact with broken glass. Throughout the neighborhood,
dust and paper rained down. People had breathing problems,
she said. We are extremely proud of how quickly the
College community came to the aid of those in need.
In the days that followed, each college found special ways
to ease the grieving process and remember victims of the attack.
the week after the hijackings, students and faculty fired
up the kitchens at City Techs Hospitality Program to
prepare largescale food shipments for workers at ground zero;
they were delivered by City Harvest.
Hostos Community College conducted a Gathering for Remembrance
on September 13th in the Savoy Building.
Hunter College President Jennifer Raab opened the Brookdale
campus as a refuge for medical personal at the Bellevue Hospital
trauma center. The College created memorial space for students
who posted items, photos and other remembrances. On the crosswalks
easels were positioned for students seeking to post written
memorials. Several gatherings were held for students, faculty
and staff to express their feelings.
College President Gregory Williams held informal meetings
with students and faculty today, and a memorial service was
organized. Names of friends and family lost in the attack
were posted on the Colleges web site. Counseling was
also made available.
Colleges athletic facilities reopened as a comfort station
and rest area serving National Guardsmen acting as relief
workers in the downtown area. The Armory across the street
from the Colleges new vertical campus became a command
post for the citys Office of Emergency Management. Families
from throughout the region seeking information about missing
loved ones met here with OEM staff to begin the grim process
of collecting information that would lead to the identification
of those who died in the attack. As the crowds increased,
additional space was secured in the vertical campus to handle
College held a moment of silence gathering on the steps of
Boylan Hall. Lehman College postponed its Convocation until
October. Both campuses offered counseling.
The College of Staten Island held a moment of reflection at
a campus fountain. A discussion session followed that was
led by President Marlene Springer. In the days immediately
following the attack, about 150 CSI students from Brooklyn
were able to travel home by bus under special police escort
across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which was closed to all
but emergency vehicles.
Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn offered crisis counseling
in the Student Advisory Center. Students with greater needs
were referred to the Bedford Stuyvesant Mental Health Center.
The CUNY Law School in Queens scheduled a group meeting with
the Academic Dean and counselors for people to discuss their
Community College in Queens held a moment of silence and a
campus town meeting in the Mainstage Theater to discuss political
violence and world peace; it was led by President Gail O.
Mellow and faculty members. Kingsborough Community College
in Brooklyn offered counseling for students throughout the
day in the Marine Academic Center Theater. A special Kingsborough
team was dispatched to BMCC to relieve workers serving the
Chambers Street campus.
Community College held an ecumenical prayer service in the
Newman Center and is also providing both group and individual
counseling in the Student Union Building.
The University opened special web sites for BMCC and the Research
Foundation on cuny.edu, the University web site. Bulletins
were posted and updated daily with information on emergency
operations. Under the direction of Executive Vice Chancellor
for Academic Affairs Louise Mirrer, a University telephone
Help Line staffed with volunteer faculty specialists
in psychology, social work, nursing and counseling offered
grief, trauma, and bereavement assistance.
Our message to students and others is that it is common
for people who have experienced traumatic situations to have
very strong emotional reactions, Dr. Mirrer said. Understanding
that this is a normal response to abnormal events can aid
them in coping effectively with their feelings, thoughts,
and behaviors and help them along the path to recovery. Talking
to a professional will help students to deal with this tragic
and stressful situation.
It was clear that the help was needed. One professor at Hunter
College found this note from a student explaining her absence
from class after the attack. I am in your 2:10 Shakespeare
class, the student wrote on a page of loose leaf. Just
received word about the World Trade Center. Both my parents
work there. I am sorry but I had to go.