Students Visit and Reflect On 9/11


12004692_10204759596258474_5801166446218136419_nFourteen years after the tragedy of 9/11, Mercy College students still remember it.

This year, in order to show their appreciation to our troops, Student Life set up an event, Operation Gratitude, on both Bronx and Manhattan campuses to serve and remember this day.

“Operation Gratitude was our way to observe Sept. 11,” said Ruben Henao, Director of Student Life. “Students wrote letters and about ninety paracords were made for troops.”

A paracord is a lightweight nylon rope that was originally used in the suspension lines of the United States parachutes during World War II.

It only takes five minutes, but it means the world to a soldier.

“We thought the next best way to pay tribute to 9/11 was by visiting the One World Trade Center’s observatory,” Henao said.

The observatory, which is on the 100th floor of the One World Trade Center, gave students who attended the school trip a beautiful 360-degree panoramic view of the city and beyond. This view shows guests iconic sites such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, New York Yankee Stadium, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Hudson River waterway, New Jersey and Staten Island.

Before coming to America from Ecuador, Katherine Quevedo had not learned anything about Sept. 11, 2001. Today, she sees it in a completely different way.

“It’s shocking to think that something bad happened here. But it’s unbelievable because once you’re up here. It’s something so amazing, you sort of forget the terribleness that occurred,” said Quevedo, freshman, studying to be a physician’s assistant.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the biggest international terrorist attack in the United States occurred, resulting in 2, 977 deaths. Two American Airline flights flew into the World Trade Center causing the loss of 2,606 lives, including ones in the surrounding area.

Not only did the attack hit the New York area, but took the lives of 125 at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and 246 that were aboard the plane who went down in the Pennsylvania field.

International terrorism, according to Homeland Security, is defined as an attack with any activities with the following characteristics: violent acts dangerous to human life or that violate federal or state laws from outside the United States.

Today, twin memorial pools stand where the once the Twin Towers stood. They are there to honor the past and give hope for the future. On each memorial, there are the names of the men, women, and children who died in the terrorist attacks on Feb. 26, 1993 and Sept. 11, 2001, inscribed in bronze.

Thirteen years after the destruction, One World Trade Center was opened in November of 2014. It is also called the “Freedom Tower” to many Americans.

The One World Trade Center is the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and the fifth tallest in the world. It stands at 1,792 feet, with 94 floors used for business, and the three highest floors, for visitors.

On the 101st floor mezzanine, overlooking the main observation floor, there are three dining options with the aerial view of Manhattan.

On the 100th floor are the main observatory, video presentation, and sky portal.

“Being here gives me the chills,” Nicoll Baez, a sophomore studying biology said, as she walked toward the memorial, “but it’s something nice to see even after a horrific disaster.”

“This is such a touching experience, especially knowing something tragic happened here,” said Susan River, a sophomore psychology major. “It’s sad, but at the same time, to see something this nice is a great experience in itself.”

“They turned something horrible into something beautiful,” Rivera said.

“I was about eleven years old living in South America when the terrorist attack happened,” said Juan Gatti, a graduate student studying business administration, “I came home from school and my mother was silent for the rest of the day.”

“Being here today and seeing this is an eye opener,” said Gatti.

Olivia Calabro, a sophomore studying to become an occupational therapy assistant, recalled Sept. 11. “It was before I moved to Pennsylvania; I was in school and living in Maryland at the time. Everyone in my class was going home early; then my mom came to pick me up. I was too little to know what was happening, but growing up, now I know what happened.”

“Having these memorials here helps us remember the heroes and the fallen, and for the future generations to come, too,” Calabro said.

In Memorial Plaza, besides the twin memorial pools and One World Trade Center, stands the “Survivor Tree.” The “Survivor Tree” is a callery pear tree that survived the horrific terrorist attack in 2001. It was severely damaged, with burned and broken branches and snapped roots. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

After its recovery, the tree was returned to Memorial Plaza in 2010, showing off its brand new smooth limbs from gnarled stumps. Its visibility shows the tree’s past and present and stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival, and rebirth.

Similar to the tree as a reminder, the new One World Trade Center stands as a living reminder for one student in particular. Toni Pellegrino, a sophomore studying Veterinary Medicine, remembers the day of the attack faintly, but remarkably.

“I was just a little kid in North Carolina at the time and didn’t understand why school was ended so early and abruptly. All my teachers were acting strange before dismissal,” Pellegrino said. “When I got home, I recall my mom pacing back and forth in the kitchen. She was worried about something on the phone with my dad. He’d been working in Manhattan for as long as I could remember.”

Her dad worked for Jam Consultants, which is one of the consultants that helped get various construction related permits for the construction of the new tower, she says with a smile on her face.

It’s the same smile she has on her face when she walks past, sees it on social media, or when someone mentions the words World Trade Center.

Recreated. Rebuilt. An honor that creates a smile.