Today is Oct. 8, 2002. I would like to apologize for the amount of time it has taken me to write this letter.
My name is Chris Cavaliere. I am employed in the Buildings & Grounds Dept. at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Our main campus is located at 199 Chambers Street, New York City.
We are all aware of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Due to my proximity to the World Trade Center (3 blocks north), I was thrown into the largest rescue effort ever in this country. My colleagues and myself had never been trained for what we witnessed or what had to be done. Following the collapse of the buildings our college was instantly transformed into a command post, hospital and rescue base for the Port Authority Police, New York City Firefighters, FEMA and the military. Without giving it a second thought my co-workers and I started working with all these agencies. I assisted the Port Authority Police Department and was an eyewitness to the enormous effort put forth by them. We quickly set up the rescue equipment in our very large gymnasium and before you knew it we had an 80-foot long table with every piece of equipment we could gather to enable them to enter the collapsed and burning buildings. I was in charge of the breathing masks and other related safety equipment.
There was an extremely large outpouring of donations of every conceivable item from personal rescue equipment, with notes saying God bless you and thank you, to boots, jackets, water, towels, dog food and a large truck full of grapes. One of my colleagues from SEEMAC, which is the construction company of the Port Authority, came through the Lincoln Tunnel with an empty pickup truck. By the time he reached us the truck was full of sandwiches, individually packaged with a soda and candy bar, and a personal note of thank you. All the food was packed in large leaf bags and every time he stopped the truck someone put more food in. The night it rained, at about 1 a.m., a man came to me and said that a Long Island radio station ran a fund drive and he had two tractor trailers full of donations for us. I was floored, I could not get over the compassion that was coming to us from all over. Here we were in the most depressing and desperate time of our lives, with no radio or televisions, and more and more support kept on coming in.
We had a memorial set up in the middle of the gym with pictures of the missing police officers. They were surrounded by beautiful letters and handmade cards from children all over the country. Suddenly someone called over to me and said, "Isn't this where you're from?" I looked down and there was a plate of homemade cookies from Roslyn Harbor Hills School. I had worked two 33 hour shifts and one 48 hour shift and there was nothing that could have made me feel better than to see a plate of cookies from my town. Boy, were they good! They rejuvenated my purpose and pride in everything we were doing. It reminded me of where I was from and why I had to be where I was. I was reassured of the strength of our country, of our youth and our ability to stick together to face any challenge brought to us.
Ever since that night I have been trying to find the time and words to thank the students who gave donations of food, clothing and gifts from their hearts. I know that when you give of yourself in times of need, you rarely know if your donations arrived at their intended locations. Well, it did and it brought a smile to my face that I will never forget. I want to thank you, because of people like you, we felt that every American was with us shoulder to shoulder.