Social Scene Responds to Tragedy

Dec. 20, 2001
By Marc Zawel
Sun Senior Writer

Cornell University is located over 250 miles away from lower Manhattan’s “ground zero,” the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

However, most Cornell students have felt this distance diminish in the days, weeks and months following the attacks. The daily life of Cornellians has changed dramatically, reflecting the social implications the attacks had on everything from the Greek system to Cornell athletics.

Athletics

Within 48 hours of the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., the Cornell athletic department, following suit with other Ivy League universities, decided to cancel all athletic contests for the weekend.

Athletic Director Andy Noel told The Sun that it was important to “reflect on the tragedy and focus on family and friends.”

“It just seemed obvious to not concentrate on intercollegiate athletics,” he added.

In the Big Red’s first football game against Yale following Sept. 11, Ithaca Fire Department firefighters “collected money at different gates and sold NYFD hats,” according to Laura Stange, director of athletic communications.

The firefighters raised around $1000 that weekend.

“In the days following the attacks, Cornell Outdoor Education sent equipment and supplies to ground zero,” Stange said.

These supplies are usually used for the division’s wilderness excursion programs.

“There were also moments of silence at events following the national anthem and other signs of patriotic support,” she added.

In general, there has not been an increased security presence at athletic events, Stange said, although a few events, like the Trustee Council Weekend, did have a “stepped up police presence.”

Since then, “there has not been extra security at Cornell athletic events,” Stange said. “We have tried to maintain some sense of normalcy,” she added.

Greek System

The Greek System was “deeply affected by the tragedy of Sept. 11,” according to Jason Conn ’03, vice president for University and community relations for the Interfraternity Council and a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

“With our long lists of alumni dating back many decades, and our thousands of students on campus, I doubt there was a house on campus that did not have a personal connection to the victims,” Conn said.

In the days and weeks following Sept. 11, the Greek system raised approximately $15,000 for the Red Cross and other relief organizations. This money was raised through fundraising parties and through more unique ventures, like the Kappa Delta sorority and Delta Phi fraternity’s second annual Haunted House.

The event, held Oct. 26, raised $700 for New York City firefighters. “Fraternities and sororities have so much experience in preparing and executing service events, that they are the obvious choice on campus to pull off successful fundraisers for the victims of Sept. 11,” Conn said.

“Whereas many organizations started from scratch when creating fundraisers, after Sept. 11, many Greek houses modified existing fundraisers so that these events could directly benefit those who are the neediest right now, the victims of the attack on American,” Conn added.

Student Body Initiative

The enduring impact of Sept. 11 continues to be seen in student fund-raising, blood drives and peace protests on Ho Plaza. The student body in the School of Hotel Administration, acting on its own accord, recently began a “thank-you card” campaign for relief workers in the Sept. 11 tragedy.

The cards were purchased and organized by individual students in Hotelies for Outstanding Service Today (HOST), a branch of the Cornell Hotel Society, according to co-organizer Michael Parente ’03.

The campaign was organized as “a means of giving back,” Parente said.

The cards contained messages like, “Thank you for your courage. It’s people like you who keep America alive and beautiful.”

Close to 200 cards were mailed two weeks ago, each containing approximately ten signatures, according to Parente.

“I don’t know a single Hotelie who didn’t sign a card,” Parente said.

The letters were sent to the Red Cross in New York City where they will be distributed amongst “ground zero” relief workers.

“The Hotel School relies on being service oriented,” Parente said.

“This is an extension of what we are all being taught in school,” he added.

“It feels good being able to give something back to those who are working so hard in the World Trade Center relief efforts,” said Hotelie Peter Andersen ’04.

Student Organizations

Many student organizations, like the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA), have organized extensive fundraising and educational efforts following the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The American media has equated terrorism with a specific faith and background, one that is generalized to include all members of the Arab and Muslim community,” Umair Khan, vice president of the Arab Club, told The Sun.

In response to this, Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan H. Murphy ’73 told The Sun that, “We have made many services available to them, as we will for all students and groups affected.”

Like many student organizations, MECA began collecting money for relief efforts in the days following Sept. 11. They collected $1,800 on Sept. 14, which they donated to the Red Cross, the United Way and Cornellians who had lost family in the tragedy.

“In the same way that [the Muslim and Arab communities] are helping to raise money to help the victims, we should help them because they are part of our community,” Miran Cardona ’03, a member of MECA, told The Sun.

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