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The campus reflected the enormous sadness of the event

Manhattan College alumni and relatives of Manhattan College students and staff were among those who perished in the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Late in the morning of September 11th, students, faculty and staff gathered in a spontaneous vigil outside of Smith Auditorium. The rest of the month of September was largely devoted to chapel services, candlelight prayers, blood drives and a somber solidarity which has brought the entire Manhattan College community closer together. Professors, students and school administrators have sought to calm fears, heal wounds and promote peace, through a series of lectures, discussions and other campus events.

Volunteers raised the spirits of firefighters, police and paramedics

Among the many unheralded acts of human kindness, selfless generosity and heroism were the efforts of Eric Sassnett, general manager of Sodexho Marriott food services at Manhattan College. He described the events of those early days in an interview with the ASPECT Update.

"The next day after the tragedy, a couple of Manhattan College students and Brother Dennis Lee (Campus Ministries) contacted me," explained Eric. "They said they wanted to take a run down to Chelsea Piers, and wanted me to contribute food." That day, Manhattan College's Sodexho Marriott services donated breakfast items, juice, soda and sandwiches to the volunteer center downtown.

That same day, Eric Sassnett was in touch with his counterparts at Iona, Binghamton, Pace University and Fordham to arrange to collaborate on further food runs. "Altogether we sent out 5,000 peanutbutter-and-jelly sandwiches on Wednesday, the 12th, and Friday, the 14th," he said. "We went down to sub-zero, where the American Red Cross had set up a relief center." After the 14th, Eric called down continually to offer more help, he expained. But the relief centers didn't need any more product-just gloves, equipment, etc…, so he participated in an American Red Cross donation drive, with cans all around campus.

Although two Sodexho Marriott employees were lost in the World Trade Center collapse, the Manhattan College unit managed by Eric Sassnett thankfully did not lose anyone. "The challenges for me were just transportation for my employees," he recounted. "Most people had to pull doubleshifts."

Larger role played by Sodexho in rescue and recovery

Sodexho Marriott Services also owns the Circle Line, which they used to run firefighters and police up and down the Hudson River every day during the intense rescue and recovery mission following the World Trade Center attack.

Eric Sassnett shares his impressions of the September crisis

Anyone who was so closely involved in the volunteer response to the immediate crisis following the World Trade Center attack will have important stories to share for the rest of their lives.

"It's a tragedy and all my employees are pretty much feeling sad, cloudy," said Eric in his ASPECT/ Manhattan College interview. "They're all scared because they don't know what the outcome is going to be."

"Our workers don't need one-on-one counseling-which we offered," explained Eric. "But they are scared [about the reaction of the U.S. government and the prospects for more terrorism].

"In my mind," he stated, "I want to make sure we think it out as Americans … and make sure we make the right decisions."