Eastern remembers Sept. 11

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Sep. 13, 2011
Doves adorn a Sept. 11 tribute tree on the Eastern Connecticut State University campus. The tree commemorates the 152 people from Connecticut who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
Doves adorn a Sept. 11 tribute tree on the Eastern Connecticut State University campus. The tree commemorates the 152 people from Connecticut who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

As the nation recognized the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, numerous memorial events were planned across the state of Connecticut. Eastern Connecticut State University scheduled an entire week of activities.

“Each year at Eastern, we mark the passing of Sept. 11 with a moment of silence and personal reflection,” said ECSU President Elsa Núñez. “We felt this year’s 10th anniversary of 9/11 was an opportunity to come together as a community and spend time remembering those who perished that day. As Americans, we should never forget what happened 10 years ago. We owe it to the innocent people who died that day and their families to honor their memory.”

“To honor those who lost their lives and to support the causes of world peace and global understanding, students working in the Center for Community Engagement spent the summer making 1,000 paper peace doves that will be displayed in the Student Center throughout the weeks of Aug. 29 and Sept. 5,” according to a university press release. On Sept. 9, dozens of those doves, with messages written by faculty, students and staff, adorned the trees on the lawn separating Gelsi-Young Hall from High Street.

The lawn was the site of a memorial service to honor those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001. The site features a small, weeping “9/11 Tribute Tree,” intended as a permanent honor to those who died. Núñez recognized the tree as a “tribute to the 152 people who died from Connecticut,” during her speech at the ceremony.

“Our greatest weapon against the forces of evil is decency - human decency,” said Núñez. “Let us use the individual strength that you and I have to go out and make a difference.”

Another speaker was ECSU scholar athlete Jamie Kohn. Kohn was just 12 years old in 2011, and living abroad with his parents in Austria. He had visited the World Trade Center in New York City just the week before, and was shocked to watch on television as the twin towers fell to the ground. His Austrian neighbors, he said, “until then had been critical of Americans.” But the attack seemed to bring out a sympathy and understanding for Americans, said Kohn.

Recognized as a member of the audience was Jim Preston, a firefighter with the South Windham Fire Department. Preston is the Northeast Regional Director for the Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation, and has been involved in fundraising efforts for those with connections to Ground Zero who have become ill.

“We have lost more than 1,000 responders so far,” said Preston, “and it’s not just first responders. It’s iron workers, construction workers, all kinds of people who were exposed to the site.” There are a number of ailments afflicting these people, including leukemia, cancer of the eye orbits and nasal passages, and a variety of different lung ailments. “It’s an ongoing thing,” said Preston. “What we’re trying to do is to ease their final days.”

Because the response to the tragedy garnered national support, there are firefighters and other responders from all over the country who have become ill. Estimates put the total number of responders at more than 70,000. “It’s only a matter of time before it starts affecting us in Connecticut,” said Preston.

Preston’s organization is currently involved in raising money for air purification units for sick responders to use in their homes. “These units allow them to be at home with their families,” he said. Eastern donated $1,000 to the cause, “And may get involved further,” said Preston. At a cost of $200 per unit, the Eastern donation will purchase five air purifiers. “We’re just trying to do our part to help out,” said Preston. “There are a lot of people in need. We’re still getting names.”

There are donation boxes for the Fire Fighter Cancer Foundation available at the Dunkin’ Donuts near the Windham Airport, and at the Walmart Dunkin’ Donuts in Windham. For more information, go to the website www.FFCancer.org, or call Preston at 860-617-7450.

Other events hosted by Eastern in honor of Sept. 11 included a talk by Professor Charles Wynn regarding his book, “And God said, ‘Let there be evolution!’; Reconciling the Book of Genesis, the Qur’an and the Theory of Evolution.” On Sept. 10, the university hosted a student trip to the Sept. 11 exhibit at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford. And at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, Eastern students held a candlelight vigil at the Foster Clock Tower.

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