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Campus Pulls Together in Crisis

by reported by Sharon Stewart and Bob Calverley
The base of Tommy Trojan became a memorial where many placed rocks, flowers and notes to commemorate lives lost and devastated in the terror attacks. It’s a Jewish tradition to place rocks at a tombstone after a visit. lost and devastated by placing rocks or flowers at the site, along with notes. It’s a Jewish tradition to place rocks at a tombstone after a visit.

Photo by Irene Fertik

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, USC students, faculty and staff have pulled together to show their support for victims and their families.

“Many student groups and individuals are coming in wanting to do something,” said Heather Larabee, director of campus activities. The International Student Assembly held a fund-raising Concert of Hope, the Greek system is asking each member to donate a dollar to a fund for victims, and hundreds of people are lining up to donate blood, she said.

Bradford King, director of the Student Counseling Service, said students are channeling their hurt, anger and confusion into activism.

“They are donating blood, giving money, going to religious services, generally reaching out and talking to each other,” King said. “All of this is appropriate and, I think, should be encouraged.” Only four students have asked for counseling related to the crisis, King said.


A. Michael Noll, professor of communications and former dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communi cation, is living in New Jersey this semester to do research and writing at New York’s Columbia University.

“I’m not getting anything accomplished. I spend all my time trying to calm other people and trying to calm myself down,” he said. “Five thousand people – this is an incredible loss of life.“

Noll noted that many who worked in the World Trade Center commuted by train from New Jersey homes in little towns like Gladstone, Summit, Madison or West Orange.

“You see cars left in the parking lots overnight. They shouldn’t be there because this is a commuter lot. Is anyone ever coming back for them?” he asked. “They’re gone.”

Noll is fascinated by the human drama facilitated by modern telecommunications technology, particularly the cell-phone calls from the doomed aircraft and from office workers in the burning towers.

“These calls will forever be remembered and treasured by loved ones,” he said. “Alexander Graham Bell’s vision from well over a hundred years ago of the importance of the human voice for communication was dramatically confirmed.”



The week before the attacks, just 10 people volunteered to give blood at the University Park Campus, said Sandy Hibarger, donor recruitment rep resentative at USC’s Blood Donor Center.

“Last Wednesday, I had to turn 170 people away; we were just bombarded,” Hibarger said. “At the Health Sciences Campus, people waited up to two hours.” About 146 pints of blood were collected from both campuses in one day, Hibarger said.

An additional blood drive was held in the basement of the Topping Student Center on Tuesday, Sept. 18; another is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25. At HSC, a drive will be held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, in the lobby of the Hoffman Building.

On the Health Sciences Cam pus, several hundred students, staff and faculty members gathered for a “coming together” service in Mayer Auditorium on Sept. 17. The service, organized by the Office of Religious Life, included piano music by Stan Azen, director of the Biometry and Statistical Con sultation and Research Center, inspirational readings and a plea for tolerance and community spirit by Alexandra Levine, chief of the division of hematology and medical director of the USC/Norris Cancer Hospital.

The response to the attacks has been so great that the Student Senate is trying to help student groups coordinate their efforts by working together, Larabee said.

“We are asking everyone to stop by a table on Trousdale Parkway or to come to the Student Senate offices to make an origami crane. We want to make at least 1,000 cranes and unveil them Tuesday, Oct. 2, as symbols of peace.”

The senate plans to hang the cranes in the Student Commons. The group also plans to produce a slide show.

“It will be a memorial that includes newscasts of the disaster and reports on the survivors, all the way down to what we as the USC community are doing because of the attack,” Larabee said.

The Student Senate is also coordinating a fund drive, Larabee said.

“People and student groups can write out a check to the United Way, Salvation Army, Feed the Children or the Ameri can Red Cross, and send it to the Student Senate through campus mail,” Larabee said. “We will mail all the checks we collect from USC to the agencies of their choice,” she said.

United Ministry, a campus-based coalition of five denominations, also wants to do its part, said director Dianne Kenney.

“We are giving out green ribbons to everyone who is interested in demonstrating their grief about this tragedy and their commitment to peace,” Kenney said. “The green symbol – as opposed to the U.S. flag – is intended to cross national boundaries. This way everyone can stand with all who are seeking construction of the twin towers of peace and justice.”


Najmedin Meshkati, associate professor civil engineering, said it was the worst week of his life.

“Yesterday, one of my freshman students just burst into tears in the middle of class,” he said. “Like any American, I feel sad, but I also feel guilt.”

Three years before the attack, the Iranian-born Meshkati and a colleague from Brandeis University submitted an op-ed article to the New York Times. The op-ed said the Clinton administration and moderates, then in control of Iran, had a political opportunity to jointly tackle the murderous Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden. The Taliban had killed Iranian diplomats, and Iran was massing troops along the Afghanistan border.

The article was rejected and later published by the English language Iran News.

“The Taliban and Osama bin Laden are a Frankenstein created by U.S. foreign policy, and now it has turned against us,” he said. “The golden opportunity slipped by and I keep thinking, what if we had been able to get through to someone in the administration?”