9-11 Reflections – Profile: Carolyn Rusiackas

Submitted by Web Communications on September 7, 2011

It is worthy of note that the impact of 9/11 and the lives lost will always touch our community as new classes of students and new employees from the greater New York or Boston area who lost dear ones that day are among us, and still need our support when we learn who they are.

Carolyn Rusiackas

Title: Associate Director, Office of Campus Ministry

Town: Darien, CT

 

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My first impression upon awakening on the morning of September 11, 2001 was what a spectacular morning it was! It was a crystal clear day, with the bluest sky imaginable, a bright sun rising – a perfect weather day for this time of year in Connecticut. Little did I realize that this crystal clear perfection was about to be shattered with a phone call that a plane had hit one of the buildings at the World Trade Center.

From then on, confusion ensued. No one seemed to be able to get clarity on what had transpired, and what it meant. As word spread around campus, it was the students who were on the front line of concern, since many of our students are from the greater New York area and had relatives and neighbors who worked in the towers. Soon we began to hear that university staff, administrators, and faculty knew people or had relatives who worked there too. People all over campus were glued to televisions, trying to make sense of what was often conflicting information.

At times of uncertainty, tragedy, and shock, we did at Fairfield what we do best – we instinctively drew together as a university community to pray. A Mass was offered that afternoon, and as always when we need the strength of God’s care in the unknowing, we turned to Him. I remember when the Mass ended, an announcement was made that anyone who would like to gather in the amphitheater in front of Donnaruma Hall could listen to Dr. Marcie Patton whose specialty was the Middle East, a part of the world so few of us at the time knew much about.

As we gathered there, silently, each lost in our own thoughts, Dr. Patton strongly advised us NOT to watch television that day, where the image of the plane hitting the tower was being shown over and over again – an image that could become indelibly etched in our memory, something she clearly did not advise. She also cautioned against watching television or listening to the radio at all that day, as so little factual information was available, and news reporters would be filling air space with hearsay, very little of which could be substantiated. Many could not heed this sound, practical, wise advice, but I managed to, and was very glad that I had.

The next several days were extremely difficult for everyone on campus as bodies began to be identified, and while some of us were able to thank God with uncontainable joy that our loved ones had been identified as alive and well, others learned that their loved one had succumbed.

Alumni House became the heartbeat of the campus community in the days that followed, as more identifications were made and ultimately, 14 alumni were lost on that fateful day. The brother-in-law of a colleague of mine also lost his life – and this was brought home to me when my husband and I went to New Jersey to the funeral Mass, which we learned was one of a great, great many that were held in that church in the weeks following 9/11.

It is impossible to state the dedication of Janet Canepa, Director of Alumni Relations, and her staff as they honored these fallen alumni with constant communication with the families and offered their presence whenever and wherever it was needed. Alumni House opened its doors to family members who were comforted there. If not Janet, representatives from her staff attended each funeral personally. I learned by their actions and words just how much Fairfield cared about its alumni.

I am proud of Fairfield’s attentiveness to the needs of the students, university personnel, and alumni right from the beginning, an attentiveness and compassion which has never wavered in the 10 years since. I can offer no higher praise than their commitment day after day, month after month, and year after year, as events surrounding 9/11 have become a tradition.

It is worthy of note that the impact of 9/11 and the lives lost will always touch our community as new classes of students and new employees from the greater New York or Boston area who lost dear ones that day are among us, and still need our support when we learn who they are.

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