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St. Lawrence, Clarkson remember 9/11


The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are more history than memory for this year’s college freshmen, who were in kindergarten and first grade when the strikes against New York City and Washington, D.C., killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

Ceremonies Wednesday morning at Clarkson University, Potsdam, and St. Lawrence University, Canton, attempted to keep the memory of the attacks alive.

A crowd joined by representatives from the Air Force and Army ROTC gathered around Clarkson’s World Trade Center Memorial Sculpture to continue an annual tradition.

The memorial, built in 2011 using steel from the 55th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower, includes the names of Peter A. Klein, Paul R. Hughes, Richard J. O’Connor and R. Mark Rasweiler, four Clarkson alumni who died in the attack.

Another Clarkson alumnus, Michael A. Bielawa, was working at a New York City construction site that day in 2001 when the news came.

Within a day, he was at ground zero, assisting cleanup efforts by acting as a liaison for the government and the contractors working to clear away the wreckage.

“It was not a textbook construction site. Every day was a new challenge,” Mr. Bielawa said. “I was just trying to make a little bit of order in the chaos and the mayhem.”

The emotional toll of working amid the destruction did not make his task any easier. His work was filled with constant reminders of the attacks, and when he returned home and turned on the TV, he was greeted with stories of the people who had died in the towers.

Mr. Bielawa described the months following the attacks as “an emotional roller coaster.”

He now lives in New Jersey, working as a construction manager for Land Lease Construction LMB Inc.

Speaking to the crowd Wednesday at Clarkson, Mr. Bielawa urged everyone not to forget the lives that were lost in New York City.

“There are 2,749 stories that could be told that day,” he said.

Few students attended the ceremony.

Kelly O. Chezum, Clarkson’s vice president for external relations, reminded those gathered that the 9/11 attacks occurred when most incoming students were still small children.

“Most of the class of 2017, who unpacked their bags and began their first college courses just a few weeks ago, were in their kindergarten or first-grade classes the morning of Sept. 11. They may very well represent the last of the students who will attend this ceremony and remember where they were that day,” she said. She urged everyone to remind younger generations of the importance of the occasion.

Meanwhile, at St. Lawrence University, 2,996 small American flags fluttered where they had been planted in the campus quad, one for each person who died that day in the plane crashes at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in a field near Shanksville, Pa.

The flags had been placed there by nearly 20 students just before midnight Sept. 10.

Five of the flags had names next to them: Robert J. Coll, Catherine Gorayeb, Christopher Morrison, Michael A. Pelletier and Richard H. Stewart Jr. were all SLU students who died on 9/11.

The SLU Republicans started the flag-planting tradition several years ago. This year, they were joined for the first time by the SLU Democrats and SLU Students for Liberty. The students returned to remove the flags at midnight Wednesday.

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