University remembers lives lost in Sept. 11 attacks

PLATTSBURGH Seven years have passed since the terrorist attacks that forever changed the social, political and physical landscape of the nation, though for many, it is as if the tragic events unfolded yesterday. The State University of New York at Plattsburgh was one of countless organizations that took time to reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on the seventh anniversary of the attacks, particularly remembering two of its own who perished. College faculty and students, as well as members of the media and the general public, gathered at a memorial at Hawkins Pond on the college campus. The memorial has been the annual site of remembrance honoring Robert Sutcliffe, a 1984 graduate who worked as a broker for Harvey, Young and Yurman, and William Erwin, a 1992 graduate who was a broker from Cantor Fitzgerald, who both died in the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City. SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Dr. Richard Schnell recalled the hours immediately following the attacks, which were seen in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Somerset County in Pennsylvania. Schnell volunteered to chaperone one of the buses filled with SUNY Plattsburgh students who were heading to the city in an effort to check on friends and family. It was very difficult reaching people, Schnell recalled. Cell phones were down, for the most part, a lot of land lines were down. Many students had not spoken to their parents and loved ones, so it was essential to them to get back to their homes. On any other occasion, the blue skies and warm temperatures the students and faculty encountered in the city would have made for the perfect day, but the billowing smoke and the atmosphere they encountered cast an eery silence over Manhattan, said Schnell. The buses were able to park briefly to drop off students, who were given instructions to meet promptly a few days later, once they were able to account for their friends and family members. Each returned at the agreed upon time, many joined by their loved ones to see them off, he said. Student Association president Angel Acosta was living in the city at the time of the attacks. While he didnt witness the two planes crash into the buildings, it was the sound of the second plane hitting the building that woke him. I got up from my bed, I opened the window, and I saw these two towers of flames, recalled Acosta, who lived a 30-minute walk away from the Twin Towers. To this day, I cant describe the emotions that ran through my mind and my heart. Several firefighters from Acostas neighborhood died in the search and rescue efforts that day, he said, forever changing the lives of those families. Schnell recalled one of his cousins was among those summoned to the rescue efforts immediately following the crashes, however, he was one of the fortunate ones to survive. On that morning, his cousin whom he did not name out of respect to his privacy was relaxing following his shift as a firefighter at Engine Company 51 in Harlem. His friend called to inform him of the attacks. Like so many of us, he thought a private aircraft had accidentally crashed into one of the towers, said Schnell. And like so many, when he learned of the second plane crashing into the second tower, Schnells cousin knew our lives would be changed forever, he said. Schnells cousin reported to his station then traveled to the site of the Twin Towers. He and members of his crew were stopped by their captain who ordered them to head back to grab equipment. That order kept them out of the building and ultimately saved their lives, Schnell said. The building started coming down. They had to make a split-second decision run right or run left. They ran to the right, ducked into a garage and they were all saved, said Schnell. If they had run left, they would have run right where the command post was for the New York City Fire Department and, as we know, the whole upper tier of the New York City Fire Department was eliminated that day. Every time any national incident happens, Im constantly worried about potential terrorist attacks, said Acosta. Thats what its like to be an American nowadays. We started the millennium off with 9/11 and I think the future years hold even more challenges. As long as we are willing to come together to support each other, I think, hopefully well be fine. SUNY Plattsburgh president John C. Ettling said each person comes away from the annual remembrance ceremonies with their own reflections on Sept. 11, but feels each understands the importance life is fragile and acknowledges how different the world has become. Its a date after which nothing was the same or ever will be the same, he said.

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