College Community to Remember 9/11

College Community to Remember 9/11


Many of them were only between the ages of 7 and 10 when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred, but SUNY Cortland student leaders still feel a strong need to solemnly mark the national catastrophe.

At 9 p.m. Tuesday, members of the campus community will gather on the steps of Corey Union for a commemorative ceremony coordinated by members of the Student Government Association (SGA), the student-run Emergency Medical Squad (EMS) and the Cortland chapter of Hillel, the Jewish student cultural organization.

The campus clergy in several religious denominations present on campus will join student group representatives and administrators in offering their remarks on the occasion.

This year, instead of handing out candles the organizers will distribute red glow necklaces to honor those who lost their lives that day.

Members of the campus community are encouraged to attend. Organizers also have circulated an “I Will Join the 9/11 Tribute movement” flier encouraging students to join the initiative by posting their personal tribute online at Facebook 9/11Day or and volunteering themselves in a day of service on Tuesday or another day soon.

“The 9/11 Commemoration is something you can do as a day of service,” said Kevin Pristash, the associate director of Corey Union. Pristash noted that the website contains suggestions about volunteer activities in Cortland that students can join. 

Recently, the site advertised several volunteer opportunities in Cortland as well as in Ithaca and nearby Brooktondale, N.Y. In Cortland alone, students and other members of the college community were encouraged to become involved with the Cortland County Community Disaster Education Volunteer Program, become a mentor with Cortland’s Youth Assist Program, serve as a Thrifty Shopper store assistant, help the law enforcement division of the Cortland County SPCA, Inc., or assist with mailings, filing, data entry, or other office tasks in Cortland County.

Administrators in Campus Activities and Corey Union and the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association are assisting in organizing the memorial event. The ceremony moves indoors to the Corey Union Function Room in the event of rain.

Organizers and planned participants reflected on the upcoming observance.

“Many people are still feeling this overwhelming sense of sorrow and regret and loss, even 11 years later,” said LeighMarie Weber, a junior speech and hearing science major from Williston Park, N.Y. She is the current SGA president and an organizer of the event. “We can all come together as a campus over this.

“Although I didn’t have a family member who was affected, I knew many people who did,” Weber said. “So we all were impacted indirectly.”

2011 9/11 ceremony
In 2011, students and other members of the campus community marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. They are shown during a candle-lit ceremony on the steps of Corey Union. 

“I wasn’t directly affected,” said Sean Jolliff, a senior history major from the northern New York community of Copenhagen, and the president of the EMS. “But I still remember that day vividly.”

Seated in his sixth grade social studies class, Jolliff saw his teacher receive the whispered news from a colleague and then announce to the class that he would find a television set for them to watch, as they would see history on the scale of Pearl Harbor made that day.

“We made history by being alive during this time, and those of us who will be teachers will be teaching history that we lived,” Weber said. “My feelings about that are so profound.”

“I do think it will hit home that day because we have a large percentage of students who are from the New York metro area,” Jolliff said. “Even at their young age, they were directly affected by it because they were so close to it.”

“That was the last morning I would ever see my neighbor Steve wave to me out his window as I got on the bus,” said Jana Diamond, co-president of Hillel. With co-president Andrea Seidenberg she has arranged for a Jewish prayer of mourning to be recited during the ceremony.

“I was sitting in my fifth grade classroom,” recalled Seidenberg. “One by one, each student was picked up early. At the time, no one knew what was going on. I remember coming home from school and turning on the television to see the twin towers going up in flames. As a 10-year-old, I was scared.”

 “So many lives were profoundly changed by this terrible tragedy, including the families of the seven alumni we lost on that day,” said Erin Boylan, interim executive director of alumni affairs, who will offer remarks on behalf of the College’s graduates that evening. “The students come together to offer such a touching tribute to all those affected and it is positive that the campus community still gathers to reflect.”

Since 9/11, Weber has watched her peers grow up in a world of intense travel security measures. Her childhood friend lost her father in the tragedy and was never the same.

 “I will be able to show my support and sympathy about this and so will many of my classmates,” Weber said. “Even though this happened 11 years ago, there is still a sense of sorrow and loss that is felt. This campus does a wonderful job being able to lend a helping hand and being able to support one another. And I think the community that is built around this college is here for us. That’s why I think this College community is great.”