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Volunteer work, ceremonies mark fifth anniversary of 9/11

By : Rachel Coker

Binghamton University employees pay their respects to the 15 alumni who died in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, after President Lois B. DeFleur laid a wreath in the Memorial Courtyard.
Sept. 11, 2006, dawned much like Sept. 11, 2001: a perfect fall day with puffy white clouds dotting a crisp blue sky.

The weather may have been similar, but it only highlighted how much the world has changed in those five years as the University community paused to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks.

During two solemn ceremonies, the campus honored the 15 Binghamton alumni and the thousands of others killed in the attacks.

In the morning, an honor guard of white-gloved University Police officers raised the American flag before lowering it to half-staff in a tribute to the victims.

Several dozen faculty, staff and administrators observed a period of silence and the Library Tower bell chimed to indicate the moment when the first airplane hit the World Trade Center.

Afterward, President Lois B. DeFleur led the assembly to the Memorial Courtyard, where she placed a wreath at the monument to the alumni who perished in the attacks.

“None of us will ever forget the victims or the heroes of that tragic event,” she said, her face trembling with emotion.

DeFleur recalled the genesis of the courtyard and looked at the photographs of the alumni etched into the memorial. She urged those at the ceremony to remember the tragedy but also to use the courtyard as a place for contemplation and to find solace from other challenges.

“From the dust, from the rubble, we saw sadness, we were proud … and we began to realize immediately the challenge that this nation would face,” DeFleur added during a noon ceremony held in the courtyard.

She said Binghamton’s responsibility is to ensure students have a new perspective and better intercultural understanding so they can take on roles that will help begin a new era for the world.

“Our students,” she said, “are caring. They are hard-working and creative.” Chabad House’s annual Mitzvah Marathon certainly highlighted those characteristics. The event requires participants to perform a mitzvah, or good deed, to pay tribute to the victims of the attacks. Students and employees joined in the effort, donating food for the hungry, participating in a blood drive, making sandwiches for the homeless and committing themselves to do volunteer work in the future.

University employees also participated in the United Way’s Day of Caring, which sent teams of volunteers out across Greater Binghamton to help nonprofits with a variety of cleanup and renovation projects.

“Today is not so much a day for words as it is a day for action,” said Rivkah Slonim of Chabad House.

Col. Jacob Goldstein, who served as an Army National Guard chaplain at Ground Zero for five months, recalled his experiences there during the noon memorial.

Goldstein was looking out a window of his Brooklyn office at the smoldering World Trade Center when he saw the second plane hit the Twin Towers. “I knew right away that something terrible had just happened,” he said. “And I knew right away that it was not an accident.”

Goldstein, the son of Holocaust survivors, said he never fully understood what his parents had experienced in concentration camps until he went to Ground Zero. “The ash, the dust, those were the remains of humans,” he said.

He recalled someone giving him a yarmulke, a cap worn by observant Jews, two days after the attacks. It had been found in the pile of World Trade Center rubble. Goldstein looked inside the cap and saw it had been given to guests at a wedding held Sept. 10. Goldstein said he decided to take the discovery as a sign of hope.

“Through faith, we can overcome,” he said. “We can be better and stronger.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08