April 21, 2007

Virginia Tech student joins local memorial


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Wearing a Hokies football T-shirt, Virginia Tech junior Steven Scalia embraces Sarah Montheard, a freshman at SUNY Cortland, during a memorial service on the steps of Corey Union Friday afternoon. Scalia spoke to several hundred attendees, thanking them for their thoughts and prayers after a gunman killed 32 people and himself Monday on the Virginia Tech campus.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A Virginia Tech student became the focus of a Friday noon memorial service at SUNY Cortland, as college campuses across the nation grieved with Virginia Tech.
At Tompkins Cortland Community College, all flags are flying half-staff; the American flag flying in front of Old Main also was lowered by Wednesday for victims of Monday’s shooting spree.
In front of SUNY Cortland’s Corey Union, wearing a Virginia Tech Hokies football T-shirt, Steven Scalia watched the service, hugging SUNY Cortland freshman Sarah Montheard.
After several officials spoke at the gathering, others were offered a chance to speak. Scalia stepped up to the podium and introduced himself.
“I currently attend Virginia Tech,” he said, adding he just arrived Friday morning and found it amazing that 500 miles away, people were grieving for his campus.
“What happened Monday, I still can’t believe,” he said, noting he left early Tuesday to return to family in New York.
“That campus is not alive like it used to be,” Scalia added. He said no one congregates outside and everyone is solemn and grieving.
“I just want to say thank you to all of you,” Scalia said.
After the ceremony, SUNY officials as well as students, staff and community residents came up to shake Scalia’s hand or embrace him.
After the service, Montheard said  she knew Monday that her friend was safe. “Luckily I had spoke with him in the morning,” she said.
A junior at the college, Scalia said when he first woke up Monday morning, his roommate was watching TV and mentioned there had been a shooting. “I asked, ‘where?’ and he said ‘here,’” Scalia said.
Another SUNY Cortland student who spoke had lived 30 minutes from Columbine, Colo. Jennifer Gomez listed the names of those who died eight years ago Friday — when two students shot fellow students and staff members at Columbine High School — saying that tragedy also has to be remembered. “Columbine is still in my heart and prayers and so is Virginia Tech now,” she said.
“We often villainize what we cannot understand,” said Elizabeth Davis-Russell, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “As we grieve, mourn the loss of Virginia Tech students, let us not turn on one another in trying to make sense out of nonsense.”
Don Wilcox, interfaith campus minister at the college and an official speaker, said it is important to focus on what individuals can control.
“Anger can be used to destroy, but it also can be used to create,” Wilcox said. He said out of this tragedy everyone should ask, “What kind of human do I want to be?”
He pointed to one hero in the tragedy — Professor Liviu Librescu, a survivor of the Holocaust.
“What did he do with that anger? He did not tear down; he built. He put his own life on the line to protect his students,” Wilcox said, relating how Librescu was killed while blocking a classroom door with his body to protect his students and urging them to get out of the room through the windows.
Other official speakers were: Rich Peagler, interim vice president of student affairs; Marie Agen, O’Heron Newman Hall campus minister; SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum; Student Government Association President Katie Boyes; and Scott Jeffers, SGA vice treasurer. Closing the service, gospel singer Paula Gooden gave a soulful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”


Two new McGraw eateries in works

Staff Reporter

Plans for two new restaurants in the McGraw area — a small, drive-through restaurant in a former bank building on Main Street and a larger restaurant in the former American Legion building on Route 41 — were among the projects reviewed Wednesday by the County Planning Board.
The drive-thru restaurant, which would be placed in the 1,184-square-foot former Alliance Bank building at 34 Main St., would be a takeout café-style restaurant, owner Mark Henline said.
Henline is still finalizing a name for the restaurant, and a menu, although he said it would definitely offer coffee through the drive-thru, and ice cream in the front of the building, he said.
“This has always been sort of a dream of mine, to have this kind of business,” said Henline, who noted that he has been renovating the building for about four years, since he purchased it at auction from the village.
The primary issues the Planning Board had with Henline’s proposal were the size of the lot — Henline would need to seek a variance to allow a drive-thru on the 17,000-square-foot property — and the amount of parking available.
“We wanted to make sure there was adequate parking on site, and we were concerned about the stacking of vehicles in the drive-thru,” said county Planning Department Director Dan Dineen.
The current site plan allows for eight parking spaces behind the building, half of the required 16 spaces, and the stacking of three vehicles at the drive-thru, one less than the required four.
Dineen said Henline could either apply for a variance from the village, or potentially add parking in other areas on the lot.
Henline said he had an additional five available spaces on the adjacent property, and that parking would not be much of an issue because the facility would be strictly a drive-thru, takeout restaurant.
He said he would work with the Village Board on any potential parking issues.
The Planning Board also looked at plans to turn the 1,800-square-foot former American Legion Post at the intersection of Route 41 and Wedge Road, just east of the village, into a small restaurant.
Details on the proposed restaurant were few, and owner Dana Guernsey could not be reached Thursday for comment, but the proposal included an expansion of the parking lot to allow for 26 parking spaces, and the replacement of an open curb with a defined entrance and exit.
The Planning Board recommended that the property owners seek a use variance from the town of Cortlandville because it would lie in an agricultural district, and that landscaping be put in on the western property line to provide a screen for neighboring properties.