Unity walk


Students, staff and community members participate in a Unity Walk held on Sept. 11 in honor of the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Ryan Spoehr, Clarion Editor in Chief

Ten years to the day after one of the most tragic and horrific moments of this country’s history took place, the Volunteer Center organized a “Unity Walk” to help raise money for the Twin Towers Orphan Fund.

Jason Wiedenhoeft, advisor of the Volunteer Center, and Hannah Storck, executive director, coordinated the event. Also on the team were Kenneth Xiong, Cody Shingler, Carl Peterson, Mark Huismann and Trevor Duerst. In attendance were students, members of the community, and the town of Madison Fire Department.

On Sept. 11 at 1 p.m., the 2.5k walk commenced from the parking lot adjacent to the soccer field. The walk continued down the Starkweather Creek bike path, passing the baseball field. Along the path, a series of signs detailed a timeline of the events 10 years ago, starting with the hijacked American Airlines flight that was bound for Los Angeles and crashed into the north Twin Trade tower.

The walk eventually ended up at a park in the Carpenter-Ridgeway neighborhood just south of Truax. At that park, a batting cage-like fence served as a placeholder of posters documenting each fatality in the 9/11 attacks.

In front of the cage were 2,977 small flags paying homage to all those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, aboard the planes that crashed and to all those who died years later from health side effects. In front of the flags was a sign made with the text of “Imagine” by John Lennon.

The Volunteer Center forged a partnership with the Carpenter-Ridgeway neighborhood association and its president, Randy Glysch, to make the event happen.

Glysch, also a part-time instructor at Madison Area Technical College, helped set up the flags in remembrance of all the people who lost their lives. He also sent out fliers and emails throughout the neighborhood to promote the event.

“It was a good chance to collaborate because we’re neighbors,” Glysch said.

Shingler, a member of the Volunteer Center board, said that he saw this event as a chance for reflection.

“Now I think, after 10 years, people want to reflect or move on. It’s not something they want to be reminded of every day,” Shingler said. “That’s something I’ve been hearing from people in one-on-one is that they want to move on, and not be reminded of those images.”

The Unity Walk did indeed inspire reflection. Meghan Carpenter, a former Madison College student currently attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, walked the 2.5k. She lived 45 minutes away from the World Trade Center as an eighth-grader, living in Connecticut near the Long Island Sound. She could see the smoke in the air in the aftermath of the attack. That day created a frantic atmosphere in her school in Connecticut.

“Parents were freaking out,” Carpenter said. “Parents were coming in and taking their kids out of class.”

Carpenter went to school with a student whose mother was a stewardess on one of the planes that crashed into the Twin Trade Towers. Also, in adjacent schools, a few students lost their fathers who worked in the World Trade Center.

“It hit home,” Carpenter said. “It was a place that was so normal and so familiar that it was too close for people.”

Don Peirsdorf is an assistant fire chief for the town of Madison. A friend of his has a son who graduated from the Fire Academy in New York three years ago. When he went to New York, thoughts of 9/11 were in his head, he said. He understands the passion shown by the fire fighters who are known for their bravery and heroics on that day.

“What we do, to me when I’m doing it, it’s not a job,” Peirsdorf said. “It isn’t a job, it’s just something I like to do. It’s different.”

The event was labeled as a success for the Volunteer Center, for the center for Student Life, and particularly for Wiedenhoeft. On day of the event, the Volunteer Center was able to raise $925 in pledges.

“I think it was a huge success,” Wiedenhoeft said. “I think what made it so successful is that everyone seemed real passionate about the cause, and that was really important.”

Also attributed to the success was the donations made for the event itself. Ale Asylum pledged money. Advertising Creations, a local printing firm, donated sign holders for the timeline along the path. Also, JB’s Italian Grille donated 10 pizzas, and Madison College food service donated soda and water.

There is still an opportunity for money to be raised. T-shirts from the Unity Walk will be on sale in the Student Life office until Sept. 23.