News & Events
Clarkson University Alumnus Who Led 9/11 World Trade Center Clean-up to Speak at Remembrance Ceremony on Wednesday
Clarkson University alumnus Michael Bielawa '85, who was one of a group who led the 9/11 clean-up at the World Trade Center, will speak at Clarkson's annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony.
On Wednesday, September 11, the Clarkson campus community and members of the local community will gather at Clarkson's World Trade Center Memorial Sculpture from 8:30-9 a.m. for the ceremony. The memorial is located across the road from the Center for Advanced Materials Processing (CAMP) building (#12 on the map at http://www.clarkson.edu/about/clarkson_map.pdf .)
The event is open to the public and members of local rescue squads, fire or police departments, the military, and veterans are invited to attend in dress uniform. If the weather is inclement, the ceremony will take place in the Student Center forum (#13 on the map at http://www.clarkson.edu/about/clarkson_map.pdf .).
Currently, senior project manager/safety manager and vice president of Lend Lease (U.S.) Construction LMB, Inc., Bielawa has spent nearly 30 years as a construction manager and engineering supervisor in New York City.
The day of the World Trade Center collapse, he was called to Ground Zero to help supervise the clean-up efforts. He worked there for three weeks, effectively clearing the debris and helping to recover survivors.
"In the days after the attack, the smell of death surrounded me. I’ll never forget it," says Bielawa. "One day -- September 15th -- I parked my car at Pier 40 and went to Battery Park, where I helped stack steel and debris until it could be trucked away.
"When my shift ended, I made my way through the Battery Park World Financial Center. This is where the temporary morgue was set up. Red body bags were stacked in boxes on tractor trailers.
No one knew the number of casualties. Original estimates were more than 20,000.
"I walked up the West Side Highway and approached Canal Street, and as I approached my car there were people applauding the rescue workers and offering encouragement. This was how they dealt with the attack. They shouted 'USA! USA!' The emotion was incredible. I realized these people were directing their applause and support toward me.
"I was physically tired and mentally drained. To experience all this and then the outpouring of support by New Yorkers was an emotional rollercoaster. There were many days like this. Actually, most days were like this.”
On September 11, 2001, almost 3,000 people perished in the terrorist attacks on American soil, including four Clarkson University alumni.
The steel in Clarkson’s World Trade Center Memorial is from 55th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower.
After his first-hand experience with the September 11 disaster, Bielawa requested that the New York City Office of Emergency Management donate steel from the World Trade Center to Clarkson to be used for a memorial. Several years of planning and fund-raising led to the installation of a memorial at Clarkson in 2005.
This site was dedicated as a memorial to the four alumni’s lives lost in the World Trade Center attacks. Each of the alumni’s names, Peter A. Klein ’87, Paul R. Hughes ’85, Richard J. O’Connor ’75, and R. Mark Rasweiler ’70, is engraved above a light installed in the foundation of the structure, and at night the lights shine up on the structural beams.
Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.
Photo caption: The Clarkson University Air Force and Army ROTC color guard at a past 9-11 remembrance ceremony.
[A photograph for media use is available at: http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/9-11-2012.jpg.]