UCLA's All-Americans

Jan. 24, 2002

Former UCLA women's soccer players Staci Duncan (1998-01) and Sarah Morgan (1999-00) were among the many individuals who offered to volunteer with the relief efforts following the events of September 11. Below is a story published in the Jan. 23 edition of UCLA Today highlighting their journey to Ground Zero.

Students Lend Hand at Ground Zero
UCLA Today Staff

When Jorja Prover, associate adjunct professor in the Department of Social Welfare and an expert in crisis intervention, traveled to New York shortly after Sept. 11 to train Red Cross personnel to counsel victims and families, she found that the counselors became so distraught they needed counseling themselves.

'They were shattered, as was the entire city,' Prover recalled. 'It was overwhelming.' Upon her return to Westwood at the start of the fall quarter, she launched her Introduction to Social Welfare class by sharing her experiences at Ground Zero -- setting into motion a series of events that would give her students a lesson far beyond what is typically provided in the classroom.

'She brought the whole class to a dead silence,' recalled Sarah Morgan, one of Prover's students. 'I was in tears. She talked about how everybody needed to do something, how feeling bad was not enough.'

During the lecture, Prover suggested that students might like to volunteer at the disaster site. Morgan and her longtime friend, Staci Duncan, seated beside her in the class, turned to each other. 'Let's do it,' they agreed.

With the professor's encouragement, Morgan and Duncan, both history majors in their senior year, took the lead in orchestrating much of the trip, from enlisting student volunteers to negotiating discount air fares and hotel rates. Prover worked with the Salvation Army and other social-service agencies to arrange volunteer assignments.

'At first we thought we'd maybe get 20 students,' Morgan said. But 85 UCLA undergraduates boarded a flight to Manhattan the week before winter break, at a personal expense of about $1,000 each, for the opportunity to spend three days and nights helping at the disaster site.

Seeing Ground Zero for the first time was a shock, Duncan recalled. Morgan agreed, 'There really was no preparation for that ... to see the workers who had been there day after day.'

The students were primarily assigned to serve coffee and food to rescue workers in a football field-size Salvation Army tent, where they often found themselves also serving the role of listener.

'It was the learning experience of my life to listen to workers there,' said Morgan. 'You wanted to just open your heart and have these people open up to you.'

Many of the encounters proved heart-wrenching. 'One fireman I talked to, his son was still missing, and he had been out there every day,' said Duncan. 'You can't even imagine what these people have been through.'

Said Prover proudly of all the students, 'It was very, very moving. I think you hear a lot about students not caring, being self-absorbed -- but theThe experience will change them forever, many of the students agreed.

'I'll never forget the people I met,' said Duncan. 'They showed me what's really important in life, and what I want to do with my life. I really want to do something where I can help people.'

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