Detective Charlie Corr was in his 18th year with the New York City Police Department, working in its intelligence division. Born and raised in New York, the city lives in Corr’s thick accent.
He had been to the World Trade Center hundreds of times over the years. But the ride to the WTC was different the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Corr and his lieutenant had sped down there after seeing a report on television that a small plane had hit the North Tower.
The two arrived as a second plane hit the South Tower. “From the angle of it, I didn’t see that it was a plane,” Corr says. “I just saw the huge fireball.”
Corr called his wife, Sheila, who was at home 60 miles outside of the city with their 2-month-old son, Nolan, and told her to turn on the television. He asked her what she saw. She told him it was a plane. It was at that moment he knew that what happened was no accident. He chokes up remembering what happened next. “I told her goodbye,” he says. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
After he hung up, Corr and his lieutenant ran to the towers. They got as far as the North Tower’s lobby. They saw people land who had jumped or fallen out of the building. Hundreds of firefighters descended on the place, and one of them had a body land on him from the sky. A fire chief met the two police officers. “It’s best you don’t come in here,” he said. “We got it.”
Having regrouped on a promenade about 200 yards away from the South Tower, Corr heard an explosion a little before 10 a.m. Not knowing it was the South Tower’s collapse, he took off running. He looked back over his shoulder for his lieutenant, who was a little older and a little slower. “He got swallowed up in it,” Corr says, adding that his lieutenant survived. But not being able to help him took a toll on Corr. “It was one of those things that actually kind of haunted me for a while. There was nothing I could do for him. I couldn’t pick him up and carry him.”
Corr kept running. He escaped, something he credits to the training he had been doing for the New York City Marathon. He and his lieutenant met up two or three blocks from the North Tower. Corr and others had to run again as that tower then collapsed.
Finding safety five or six blocks away, Corr experienced what he calls “one of the more scarier moments” of his 9/11 experience. He heard fighter planes ripping by overhead. “It was one of those things where I was looking where to run if they start dropping bombs or if there was a crash,” says Corr, who finally realized they were U.S. planes.
The NYPD’s antennas were attached to the WTC, so the police had little communication among themselves. So they did what they could. They interviewed people to see if they had seen anything. They went to hospitals, but what they saw was odd. Hundreds of people were lined up ready to donate blood. Doctors and nurses waited outside with gurneys.
“Nobody was coming in,” Corr says. “I mean, there were people who were injured. But it was more either you got out or you didn’t. It wasn’t a lot of in-between.”
Corr and his lieutenant went looking for their patrol car that night. There was six inches of dust everywhere around Ground Zero. Corr finally talked to his wife about 9 p.m. and got in a bed at his brother-in-law’s place in Manhattan at 4 a.m.
In the days and weeks that followed, Corr worked long days with a joint task force formed by the NYPD and FBI. He followed leads that inundated tip lines. He worked as security for dignitaries who visited the WTC site. He didn’t have a day off for several months. Finally, he just wanted to get out of New York.
Corr retired two years after 9/11. He worked as a resource officer in Palm Beach County (Florida) schools for three years. He has worked at the NC State University Police Department for the last five years.
But Sept. 11, 2001, stays with him like it happened 10 minutes ago.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” he says. “There are times when something will pop in my head. I still have a lot of sleepless nights. I realize I was fortunate. I could have easily been in there.”
On Sunday, we will honor the first-responder community at our 9/11 memorial service held at the Alumni Memorial Belltower. Master Police Officer Charlie Corr is one part of the many first responders who went into action without pause the morning of Sept. 11. Those include firefighters and emergency and police personnel. That same community has seen significant losses since 9/11 due to illnesses from the time they carried out their duties at Ground Zero.
Jason Gipe is the Alumni Association's new associate executive director for membership.
Jason Gipe ‘00, ‘05 MR was only five years old when he watched Lorenzo Charles slam home the 1983 national championship for NC State. But he knew then that he wanted to be a student at NC State.
And now, as the Alumni Association’s new associate executive director for membership, Gipe wants to help other NC State students and alumni enjoy being Red & White for Life.
We talked with Jason about his work at the Alumni Association and some of his experiences at NC State:
Favorite NC State memory: Basketball games at Reynolds Coliseum. My freshman year I lived in Owen Dorm, Room 152. It would be the dead of winter and you would have to put on shorts to walk over to Reynolds because you knew once you got in there you would absolutely burn up if you wore pants and a sweatshirt.
You should know that: I have a golden retriever named Finley, after Carter-Finley Stadium. I orginally wanted to get two and name the boy Carter and the girl Finley, but my wife would only let me get one.
His role at the Alumni Association: My team is in charge of customer service and reaching out to all of our members … trying to communicate what membership benefits are available to them. We are always working on new benefits. We want to make sure our members feel like they get value from their membership.
On the value of membership in the Alumni Association: According to member surveys we have done, the top benefit is the magazine. It really gives people the pulse of what’s going on on campus and tells great stories about alumni who have had success due to the education they received at NC State. There are also pretty substantial savings you can get by using our Savings Connection. Members can get half-price movie tickets, substantial discounts on televisions and other electronics, and great online deals from retailers like Target, Izod and Office Depot.
On what the Alumni Association does: I love NC State because of the experience I had when I was a student here. So I’m a bit partial to the student programs we do and the traditions we start. Part of every membership dollar goes toward our student ambassador program. They put on pep rallies. We do a Legacy Luncheon, where we invite alumni parents and their kids when they are coming in as freshman to a luncheon before the school year starts so their parents can pin them with an Alumni Association pin that says “Legacy” on it. We do the Ram Roast before every Carolina game. Most of what you see at homecoming is student-run through our student programs.
On why he’s Red & White for Life: A lot of what has happened in my life was set in that ‘83 championship game. I didn’t even apply anywhere else. This was the only place I wanted to go. From the time I set foot on campus, this place has meant so much to me that I couldn’t possibly think of wanting to work anyplace else.
Ralph “Benny” E. Suggs ’69, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (ret.) and general manager of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) and Rider Services at Harley-Davidson Motor Co., has been named executive director of the NC State Alumni Association, Vice Chancellor Nevin Kessler announced today.
Suggs was the College of Humanities and Social Sciences 2006 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. He has also served on the General Hugh Shelton Leadership Initiative Board of Advisors at the university for the past eight years.
“We’re thrilled that Benny Suggs is returning to the university he has loved and supported over the years,” Alumni Association President Dennis Howard ’67 said. “He epitomizes the leadership and public service commitment graduates of NC State are known for throughout the nation.”
As general manager of the Harley Owners Group, Suggs is responsible for managing an organization with 1.2 million members worldwide. He manages all rider-training programs sponsored by Harley-Davidson as well as authorized rentals worldwide. He has a full-time staff of 60 and thousands of volunteers around the world.
“Benny has been responsible for the growth and success of the Harley Owners Group through some very challenging times,” Kessler said. “His efforts to enhance the experience and engagement of Harley-Davidson riders with the company will translate directly to his leadership of the Alumni Association. He will be able to help us engage a larger number of alumni with the university and build those lifelong bonds that are so important to NC State.”
Suggs served for 30 years in the U.S. Navy and was deputy commander in chief, U.S. Special Operations Command, upon his retirement in 2000. He also served as commander of Carrier Group Six/John C. Stennis Battle Group and was director for Operations, Plans and Policy, U.S. Atlantic Fleet where he was responsible for the training and deployment preparations of more than 175,000 personnel.
A Navy aviator, Suggs earned his Naval Aviation Wings in 1971. He has received the Defense Meritorious and Distinguished Service medals, five Legion of Merit medals and two Navy Commendation medals.
“My wife, Kellie, and I are thrilled to be returning to North Carolina and to my alma mater. It truly is ‘Red & White for Life’ in this family,” he said.
The Alumni Association engages more than 175,000 university alumni through programs and services that foster pride and enhance a lifelong connection to NC State.
Kevin Howell ’88 has been named interim associate vice chancellor for alumni relations and executive director of the NC State University Alumni Association.
In addition to maintaining current alumni outreach and service initiatives and objectives, Howell will work with the Alumni Association Board of Directors and leadership of the university to consider long-term strategies, including the fiscal planning needed to support the growth of the association.
Howell currently serves as assistant to the chancellor for external affairs. He is a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors and the North Carolina State Board of Education.
A former student body president — and member of the Board of Trustees — Howell earned his B.A. in political science from NC State and his law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. He and his wife Aleta Howell ’89 live in Raleigh with their two daughters.
Congratulations to Mike Giancola for some well-deserved recognition. The News & Observer featured him as its Tar Heel of the Week on Sunday. Giancola is the director of NC State’s Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service (CSLEPS), which helps students do some really meaningful work here and abroad and, in the process, grow as people:
Students who have never flown on an airliner find themselves in places such as post-Katrina New Orleans, Ecuador, Ghana, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka, building houses, improving water systems or working in a free clinic, while navigating a new culture.
Whatever help the students lend to their host country isn’t the main point. It’s to engage their minds and hearts with the broader world, says Giancola, 37.
“I tell students my job is to infect them and make them sick,” he says. “They say ‘What does that mean?’ and I reply ‘I’m going to make you sick with some realities of the world. It’s not for me to tell you what to do about them, but you’ll be called based on whatever force that drives you to do something about it.’”
(Photograph courtesy of NC State News Services)