“An amazing experience”is how one West Virginia University graduate student describes her recent trip to New York City to assist emergency personnel at the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.


Rebecca Berger of Morgantown joined six other graduate students from WVU s Department of Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling and Counseling Psychology in serving meals and talking to firefighters, police officers and others involved in recovery efforts and clearing wreckage from the WorldTradeCenter site.


The students �€all members of WVU s newly formed chapter of the National Rehabilitation Association �€helped the Salvation Army and Red Cross for four days Dec. 17-20, working at the site from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day.


“We learned so muchwe made a real connection with those men and women,”said Berger.”We heard so many personal storiesit was amazing.”


The experience taught the group to be good listeners, Berger said.


“We wanted them to know America appreciates the job they are doing,”Berger added.”They have not been forgotten.”


Other students making the trip with Berger were Casey Conaway of Fairview, Kellie McMillen of Morgantown, Alana Pentino of Wheeling, Crystal Tennant of Barrackville, Sarah Travis of Grafton and Damien White of Elkins.


The students held several fund-raisers and sought donations to raise the money necessary to make the relief trip possible. Several local businesses as well as WVU faculty and staff donated money to the effort.


“Being able to talk to the firefighters one on one was great,”said Tennant, a first-year graduate student.”I have a newfound appreciation for the job they do.”


The group tried to lighten the mood from what has become a very somber setting.


“We joked around with the emergency workers and tried to put a smile on their face,”Tennant said.”They really appreciated us comingthey thanked us over and over again.”


The site of the terrorist attack will be forever etched in the studentsminds.


“The visit really brought the tragedy home,”Tennant said.”You see the destruction on TV, but being there makes it more realmore sad.”


Many of the students hope to return to New York City this summer to volunteer.


“I would jump at the chance to go again,”Tennant said.