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The Hoya - September 18, 2001

U. Penn Student Aids in New York Rescue Effort
By Caroline Dube
Daily Pennsylvania

(U-WIRE) PHILADELPHIA — Before he had even seen the dramatic footage of the World Trade Center collapsing, University of Pennsylvania freshman Matt Klapper had already rushed out the door, on his way to offer his services as part of a volunteer squad from Springfield, N.J.

Klapper said he saw the attack and felt compelled to go join the Springfield volunteer rescue crew he had worked with and do what he could to help.

“As soon as I saw it, I got all my stuff and ran down to the train station,” said Klapper, originally from Brooklyn.

When he got to 30th Street Station, he was unable to board a train to New York but managed to get rides with various police officers and other officials to Chelsea Piers, a nearby location that served as a staging area for volunteers and rescue workers. Medical staff and equipment had been set up to deal with victims, but most of the victims who were not up and walking around had died.

“It was almost surreal because there was all this destruction ... but nobody was coming in,” Klapper said. “Then I realized nobody coming to the hospital means nobody’s coming.”

After only half an hour giving first aid at Chelsea Pier, he joined six firefighters from Massachusetts to head to the front lines — the World Trade Center itself.

Klapper, who has worked with the Springfield First Aid Squad for the last eight months as a first responder, has training in CPR, first aid and defibrillation. He had worked at the sights of car crashes and other emergencies before, but had not seen anything like the scene in lower Manhattan on Tuesday.

“There were shoes all over the place, parts of clothing,” he said. “The hardest things to see were the fire trucks that were burned out and the police cars with parts of the towers on them.”

He worked into the night, aiding other rescue workers by treating minor injuries and giving them eye wash to help combat the dust in the air.

“Our eyes were burning like you wouldn’t believe,” he said. “When I’d shine my pen light through the air, I’d see small particles flying around everywhere.”

Klapper described the experience as frustrating.

“It was a lot of standing around,” he said. “At times we were picking up rubble, but they were mostly letting the heavy machinery in.”

Klapper left New York on Wednesday, but he said that since hearing reports of more survivors and buildings in danger of collapsing, he plans to return Friday to continue helping.

“When I was leaving [New York] there was a big line of New Yorkers with signs saying `Thank You’ and cheering us on,” Klapper said.

The Penn Outing Club is also planning to join in the rescue efforts. According to Club President and College senior Tico Gangulee, four or five members will be using some of the club’s limited funds to head to New York Friday to help the American Red Cross. They will help with administrative services, debris removal and high-angle rescue work.

The efforts were organized in response to an e-mail sent out by the club, asking for volunteers to give blood and help the Red Cross.

“We had a tremendous amount of responses,” Gangulee said. “Pretty much the entire membership gave blood at one point or another.”

Gangulee added that though the New York area seems to be staffed for the next several weeks, aid — especially from nurses — is still needed in the Washington area.

He urged those interested to go to the regional Red Cross Center at 23nd and Chestnut streets to sign up to give blood and find out about other volunteer opportunities available.