Feature: Xavier in NYC returning to normal

By MO KROCHMAL  |  Oct. 4, 2001 at 2:26 PM
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NEW YORK, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- At Xavier High School in Manhattan Monday athletes loaded into a half dozen yellow buses to travel to afternoon team practices throughout the city. On Wednesday, the school band prepared to march in next week's Columbus Day Parade.

The sound of trombones and bass drums echoing along the six-story apartment buildings lining the street brings smiles to the plumbers outside their union hall on this predominantly residential street in Manhattan.

It also signals that Xavier, an all-boys Jesuit school on the west side near Greenwich Village, just over two miles north of Ground Zero, is returning to a normal routine -- albeit one interrupted by a steady schedule of memorials.

"Classes are being held. There are students' voices in the halls again -- that's a good thing," says Joseph Gorski, director of advancement and the school's alumni liaison.

The 900-student school has been racked by the loss of 10 alumni, 10 close relatives of alumni and another 29 relatives of students, faculty and staff, including five students who have lost a parent. They are among the estimated 6,000 people listed as missing and presumed dead.

"We've had an inordinate amount of people affected," said Gorski.

For a school with a history that stretches to before the Civil War, sadness can't begin to describe the mood as it mourns the deaths of it own, including rescue personnel who answered the first alarms in lower Manhattan trying to save the workers employed in the financial firms occupying the highest floors of the two towers -- some them classmates, or fellow alumni.

The list of Xavier-related World Trade Center victims includes:

Firefighters James Riches ('89), James Coyle ('93), Thomas Cullen, whose brother graduated this year, Lt. Kevin Dowdell, father of senior James and Patrick ('01) and Capt. Timothy Stackpole;

Moira Smith, only the second female New York police officer killed in the line of duty, the wife of James Smith (Class of '79);

Matthew Burke, a 28-year-old Cantor Fitzgerald assistant equities trader and a star quarterback (Class of '91), who was on the 104th floor of 1 World Trade, working alongside of Mark Hindy, also 28 and an equities trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, whose father and brother were Xavier alumni.

In the hours after the twin towers caught fire and crumbled to the earth, administrators were able to get most of their students, who commute to class on subways and ferries, back to their homes in the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester County and New Jersey -- after the day's classes concluded.

On Friday, though closed, the school had counselors available for the students. The school held an alumni memorial mass on Sept. 19, attended by 1,400 in the massive St. Francis Xavier church next door. Today, signs sprout in the school asking students to serve as counselors to their peers, in addition to the counseling services provided by school professionals.

The school is publishing dates and times for upcoming memorial services on its Web site xavierhs.org and has started the "Guardian Angel Fund" to accept donations to help defray the $6,800 annual tuition costs for families affected by the tragedy.

"Unless you have gone to the school or are attached to the school in some way, you couldn't understand the bond that we have," Gorski said. "We have alums calling to help, we have loads of e-mail from other schools all over the country. The Guardian Angel fund will help relive financial worries for those who have need."

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