September 12, 2006
Area residents mark 9/11 anniversary
Five years, hundreds of miles away —
College community still hurting
Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland senior Alex Trzepizor, a volunteer firefighter in New York City, listens to speakers during the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony on the steps of Corey Union Monday night.
SUNY Cortland sophomore Diana Williams and freshman Alyse Wolber, both of Rockville Center in Nassau County, lost more friends in one day than many people have lost in the five years since Sept. 11, 2001.
“We have so many terrible stories,” Williams said.
“This is the first time I’ve been homesick,” Wolber said. “I watched my best friend’s mom and another friend’s mom read names on TV this morning.”
SUNY Cortland’s 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony Monday night reinforced the campus community’s commitment to those who had fallen along with the twin towers that painful morning, and the lessons learned since.
Williams and Wolber were among the hundreds who stood on and in front of the steps of the college’s Corey Union, spilling into the street in the chill of the evening and quietly talking amongst themselves.
In each of her classes, said junior Christine Peck, of Whitesboro, _professors had taken the time to talk to the students and ask if anybody wished to say something about the day.
As they stood talking before the ceremony began, Peck and Julie Clark, a senior from Auburn, said they didn’t know anybody who was directly affected by the hijackings but wanted to gather with their community in remembrance.
“I have five friends who are overseas (in the military) right now. It’s definitely affected everybody’s life,” Clark said.
Junior Jason Knudsen, of Florida’s Orange County, said he had been waiting for the vigil all day.
“This is my third year coming. I’ve been here all three years,” Knudsen said, in honor of “all the people that risked their lives that day.”
Near the podium at the top of the steps, senior Alex Trzepizor, of Ronkonkoma, Suffolk County, sat with a group of friends, his FDNY hooded sweatshirt and accent betraying his proximity to the tragedy.
“Three guys from my firehouse were lost,” said Trzepizor, a volunteer firefighter. “I didn’t go, but a few of our guys actually went to ground zero to help with the recovery efforts.”
Stunned at first, Trzepizor said each new report that morning drove the gravity of the situation home, and the memory has lost little of its edge in the intervening years.
“Not at all. It’s just as bad,” Trzepizor said as candles were lighted around him. “If I wasn’t here, I was planning on going home tonight for the services. But it just wasn’t feasible.”
The ceremony began with the ringing of a bell three times, in remembrance of the three sites that were struck by terrorists that day. The students shared their flames with one another as the fire flickered in the breeze, solemnly and silently.
College President Erik J. Bitterbaum spoke of the meaning of country and sacrifice and liberty, and of choosing the right path with the help of the lessons of the past, especially in the wake of horrific events.
Marie Agen, the campus Catholic minister, mourned the holes left in the hearts of so many, but found hope in remembering and mourning the victims.
“Those who were loving and generous in life have inspired others to carry on their legacy,” Agen said. “They have borne much fruit.”
Professor Sandy Gutman and associate professor Kassim Kone passed on the lessons of Judaism and Islam, respectively, each stressing the importance of faith and compassion in difficult times.
“Tonight, all of us here are walking in the shoes of the families who lost loved ones on Sept. 11,” Kone said. “May the victims of 9/11 rest in peace, and may God comfort their families.”
The names of seven alumni who were lost on that day were read by Richard Peagler, interim vice president for student affairs, and after each the bell was once again sounded in recognition of the loss of the college community.
Afterward, Peagler invited audience members to the podium to voice the names of anyone they wished to remember.
The crowd sang “America the Beautiful,” many with their arms around or leaning on a friend, others softly intoning the words to themselves and the night.
Protestant campus minister Don Wilcox said that no words were as adequate as silence for honoring the fallen, righteous action would help everyone learn from disasters.
After the ceremony had finished, the candles had been extinguished and collected, and the students had begun to make their sober departure for all corners of the campus, Williams and Wolber stood near where they had comforted one another during the vigil.
“We just lost so many people from our town,” Williams said, with the edge of deep emotion still enveloping her words. “Everybody in our town works in the city.”
“We lost 20 people from our school. We got hit hard,” Wolber said.
With the impact of the incident far too close to home that morning, the two friends said that they hadn’t been allowed to watch television in school. Instead, each call for a student to report to the office was met with quiet dread.
As they spoke of friends who had been lost and friends who had lost someone, Williams and Wolber said a lot of people forget how close some were to the tragedy.
Some students in a class had even asked the professor if they were required to attend the remembrance ceremony, Wolber said.
“And I could just picture the faces of the people who had lost someone,” Williams said, shuddering.
Dryden recalls tragedy
DRYDEN — The slow, emotive, elegiac version of the “The Star Spangled Banner” that was played to close a 9/11 remembrance in Dryden Monday night didn’t lend itself easily to singing along.
Yet, as voices behind her began to tentatively chime in, Jen Wildridge found herself even more moved by the national anthem.
“That was not an easy version to sing along to, so when I heard that, it was just so uplifting. I’m really surprised I didn’t cry,” said Wildridge, chief’s aide for the Dryden Fire Department and the primary organizer of the event. “It just felt like everyone was with us, like we were all together in this — what a way to finish the ceremony.”
Nearly 150 local residents, including members of the military, local emergency services and local law enforcement, gathered on the village green Monday night, to both remember and reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
With a sprawling American flag hung from a ladder truck over Dryden’s park fountain providing the backdrop, local officials offered remembrances of 9/11 as images of the terrorist attacks and of the country rallying in response were shown on a large screen.
The Rev. Scott Kubinski read aloud the staggering losses suffered in the attacks, and the community responded with, “We will remember them,” a sentiment that some in attendance said couldn’t have been more true.
“It still feels personal,” said Kimberly Gazzo, Dryden’s town historian.
“Historically the massive loss of human life is nothing new, but having it so close to home puts us in touch with our humanity, as well as our mortality,” Gazzo said.
Sept. 11 was the deadliest day in law enforcement history, Dryden Police Chief Margaret Ryan said during the ceremony, and while it is important to never forget those who were killed, equally important is honoring the officers, firefighters and emergency personnel who risk their lives daily all over the country.
“Whether it’s 12 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning, whenever a call for help goes out, these men and women are there to try to help as quickly as they can,” said Ryan, who highlighted the state law enforcement officials who lost their lives in the line of duty in the past year in her reflections, and asked that 9/11 serve as a constant reminder of their sacrifice.
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Former board member, worker say clinic overwhelmed
For some time, Purr Fect World Inc. at 7 Wheeler Ave. operated like any other spay and neuter clinic for low-opportunity animals, associates of the organization said.
But the situation became a near-emergency for city officials and humane organizations when it was raided under a warrant on Sept. 1, and more than 275 cats were discovered living in the large house at the front of the property and clinic building out back.
The woman who had been living in the house and caring for the animals, Eugenia Cute, declined to speak with the news media the morning of the raid, but records on file in the Cortland County Clerk’s Office note that she had incorporated the non-profit organization in March of 2004, with Lisa Alderman, of Liverpool, and Susan Mix, of Freeville.
Alderman has been unable to be contacted.
The morning of the raid, Mix would only state that she had resigned in April of this year. In a phone interview Monday, Mix said that she had left the organization because of philosophical and personal differences.
“I felt that cats needed to be adopted at a faster rate. There needed to be a formal adoption set up,” Mix said Monday. “Due to personal reasons, I didn’t participate as much as I should, so I just had to resign, and it wasn’t moving forward like we had agreed.”
Originally intended as a spay, neuter, and care clinic for cats that might not have otherwise had access to medical care, Mix said she was asked to be a board member of the group by Cute.
Mix is a medical technologist with the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine.
“I liked the idea of a spay neuter clinic for low-income people. To me, that was a very, very good thing. There wasn’t enough spaying and neutering that went on for the outside public,” Mix said. “I knew Genie (Cute) from spaying and neutering at Cornell, she used to be part of Animal Aid (of Cortland, a humane organization).”
“I didn’t see at all what came to light when (city officials and other humane organizations) went in there. I really wasn’t as involved as I should have been, to notice what they found,” Mix said. “The intentions were good for this whole organization, it just never seemed to get off-the ground. There just weren’t enough people.”
An employee of the organization, Kurt Phillips, of Homer, said he had helped Cute for five years and had been employed part-time since 2003.
He had gotten to know Cute while his father owned the property, Phillips said. She worked with various spay and neuter clinics that had operated out of the clinic building.
Royal Phillips sold the property in May of 2004.
Kurt Phillips said he had been in the clinic on Aug. 26 of this year. He is currently a senior at SUNY Oswego.
“I was just there to visit, I wasn’t walking around checking the cats or anything,” Phillips said in a phone interview Monday night, adding he had not spent much time at the clinic this past summer. “I was there just a little bit for a couple weeks. I was there when I could help out.”
Working mainly in the clinic building, Phillips said he had not been in the main house this summer, but had been in the past. He assisted Cute with looking after the cats, which Phillips said had been far fewer in number in previous years.
“That was my job, feeding cats, watering cats, cleaning litter pans, getting fresh litter pans,” Phillips said. “The cats that I personally did, it was every day. And that was anywhere from 80 to 100 cats.”
He said he was surprised to hear the official reports of the condition of the house and animals, which had been described as “deplorable” by both humane organizations and city officials.
Although he agreed that Cute needed more assistance, Phillips said there was always at least one other staff member present. He declined to give names.
“She kept a very close watch over employees, and she ensured that they took the best care possible of the animals,” Phillips said.
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