Campus grieves for missing alums
“All of those circumstances bring the devastation of the situation closer to all of us, even at a distance,” Lieber said. “It makes the situation more devastating for all of us.”
“I am deeply saddened by it,” said President Tom Gerety. “It is just a sudden loss of people-a half dozen people who were just going on with their lives,” said Gerety.
According to Gerety, on Sept. 12 the College received word that Dr. Frederick Rimmele ’90 was one of the passengers aboard United Flight 175, the second plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. Maurita Tam ’01 and Brock Safronoff ’97 both worked in the World Trade Center’s twin towers and have been reported missing since the attack.
“It is very hard to feel that there is much meaning in these deaths,” Gerety said. “I feel very sad and down about it. This is innocent slaughter for no good reason.”
Tam had started working at a company called AOM on the 99th floor of Tower Two only a few weeks before the attack. While her family members and loved ones have not heard from her since the event, they maintain hope that she will return home safely.
“I think for the first two days, it didn’t really hit me. I just kept thinking she would call me to say she was all right,” said friend Eunice Koo ’04. “I really think there is hope. I have to have hope.”
Tam attended Stuyvesant High School in New York City and majored in economics at Amherst. An active member of the Asian Student Alliance, Tam acted as co-executive chair of the group last year and also sang as a soprano in the Concert Choir. She graduated cum laude but came back this year during orientation to visit friends.
“I just saw her two weeks ago. I just talked to her Monday night,” Koo said. “It’s not possible that she’s not okay. I cannot even imagine what it’s like for those people whose families are affected.”
“It’s still really hard to believe that it actually happened,” Melody Ko ’04 said. “It’s so hard to imagine her actually being there.”
Ko recalled the Concert Choir’s summer trip to Europe following Commencement. “She was a really fun person � really fun to hang out with,” she said.
“She was a really friendly, funny person. She was always smiling,” said Kim Rosenstock ’02, who was also a friend of Tam’s.
Rimmele, a professor of family medicine at Beverly Hospital in Beverly, Mass., was on his way to California for a professional conference. He attended high school at Montclair Kimberly Academy in Montclair, N.J., and went on to major in English and chemistry at Amherst. In 1990, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude and went on to Duke Medical School. He lived with his wife Kimberly Trudel in Marblehead, Mass.
Professor of Chemistry Pat O’Hara said she remembers Rimmele working on his thesis project across the hall from her office in the chemistry department.
“He had a great smile,” she said. “He was funny and smart and friendly … He was just a really nice guy.”
O’Hara also said she knew Safronoff, who also was a chemistry major.
“I was pretty devastated all around when I heard about it,” she said. “Both of them had so much talent, so much future, so much to look forward to … and then to have it all yanked out from under them. I don’t really have words for it. How can you put words to a horror like that?”
Safronoff worked as a computer programmer at Marsh & McLennan on the 96th floor of Tower One. He attended Traverse City High School in Traverse City, Mich. At Amherst, Safronoff was pre-med and a starting pitcher on the baseball team for four years. He graduated with distinction in 1997 and had just married his classmate Tara Neelakantappa ’97 in August of this year.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” said baseball Coach Bill Thurston. “He was always a team-first player … You couldn’t ask for a better kid to coach.”
Thurston said that, after the attack, he called many of his former players who lived in the New York area to make sure that they were okay, but that he wasn’t aware until much later that Safronoff had moved to New York.
“It’s a very emotional time,” Thurston said. “When I heard the news I felt like someone hit me in the stomach. You have feelings of anger, feelings of sadness and feelings of frustration. It was just such a shock.”
Additionally, some members of the College community also have relatives working in the New York City fire and police departments, including O’Hara, whose brother Robert O’Hara continues to aid in the rescue effort as a firefighter.
“We commend their heroic work and wish them well,” Gerety said.
Ed McCabe ’05 is among the Amherst students with missing relatives. His uncle, firefighter Thomas O’Hagan, has not been heard from since last Tuesday.
O’Hagan was stationed in the area of the World Trade Center, and the family assumes he entered the World Trade Center to assist in evacuation efforts and put out fires and was killed when the towers collapsed.
“Since he was a firefighter, we figure if he’s found and he’s identifiable we’re going to hear about it,” McCabe said.
O’Hagan lived with his wife, Andrea, and his twin 18-month-old boys, Pierce and Patrick. The family resided in Riverdale, N.Y.
Honora MacNaughton ’03 was also personally affected by last Tuesday’s incident.
When she called to check in with her family after she heard news of the bombing, her mother informed her that her uncle, whom she preferred not to name, worked on the 85th floor of the second tower at the firm of Keefe, Bruyette and Woods. “I was in shock at first, but I had some hope,” she said.
MacNaughton’s brother, Will MacNaughton ’99, began looking in New York City hospitals for his uncle.
“Eventually they set up a center at the Armory in New York City where families could report missing relatives, but at first he literally had to go from hospital to hospital,” MacNaughton explained.
The hospital workers requested pictures and detailed information, including dental records, which they used to attempt to identify admitted patients.
By Friday, however, it started to become clear to the MacNaughton family that their relative was not among the survivors.
“At this point, I’ve heard the area is pretty gruesome. We’re not hoping to find a body,” MacNaughton said.
There were some survivors from her uncle’s office. When the first plane hit a tower, people in the second tower began to evacuate. According to survivors, they were told to return to the building, which some people did.
“We’ll never know exactly what happened that day,” MacNaughton said. “I think the College dealt with the situation poorly. I think they should have canceled classes out of respect for those of us who were really upset � and to let everyone else take time to think about it.”