Iona University Honors Lives Lost on 9/11, Prays for Peace

New Rochelle, N.Y. – Gathered under a sunny, blue sky much like the one on September 11, 2001, the Iona University community came together today to remember 15 Iona alumni who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center as well as four who died subsequently due to related illnesses. Following an opening performance by the Iona Pipers, Iona students, faculty, staff and guests also joined in interfaith prayer to meditate on peace.

“While 22 years have passed since the attacks of 9/11, our Iona community continues to mourn and we extend our hearts in prayer and in sorrow with those who lost loved ones,” said Sean D’Alfonso, Ed.D., director of the Office of Mission & Ministry. “As we gather today as an Iona community, we remain mindful of the power of our faith, as we open our ears and hearts to pray for and work toward a more peaceful world.”


The ceremony included a reading of names honoring the lives of Iona alumni lost on 9/11, including Thomas W. Hohlweck, Jr. ’74 MBA; Joseph P. Kellett ’96; Michael A. Lepore ’84; Laura M. Longing, ’94 MBA; Michael F. Lynch ’94; Francis N. McGuinn ’83 MBA; Dennis P. McHugh ’90; Michael E. McHugh, Jr.  ’95; Robert McPadden ’99 MS; Diana J. O’Connor ’86 ’89 MBA; Joseph R. Riverso ’91; Edward Ryan ’81; Joseph Spor ’88; Sean P. Tallon ’96 and Joanna Vidal ’96.

Iona also remembered first responders who heroically served on September 11 and have since passed, especially members of the alumni community Daniel R. Foley ’95; Lieutenant Richard A. Nappi ’86; Lieutenant Christopher M. Pupo ’95 and James Ryan ’84.


New Rochelle Police Commissioner Robert Gazzola, Class of 1999

New Rochelle Police Commissioner Robert Gazzola, Class of 1999

New Rochelle Police Commissioner Robert Gazzola ’99 joined the ceremony to offer special reflections. He recalled that like most people on 9/11, he vividly remembers exactly where he was when he first heard news of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. He was walking past the detective’s division, and he knew right away it was a terrorist attack, he said.

At the time, Gazzola was a lieutenant and special operations commander. He immediately began assembling his team along with others to meet at Stuyvesant High School in the Bronx. They were assigned to what would become known as Ground Zero to assist with the recovery efforts.

“I remember it was a beautiful day, perfect blue sky. But when you looked from a distance, as far away as the Bronx, you could see smoke billowing up from Manhattan,” Gazzola said. “To get to the site, we had to walk along city streets that were covered in debris and ash. It was a very surreal experience, walking past crushed fire engines and ambulances, seeing the landing gear of an airplane on the sidewalk, papers from offices continued to blow around. The sight was haunting; the scale was much bigger than what you saw on television. The smoke and fire burned for days, weeks, really. The acrid smell was pervasive.”

“It wasn’t until years later that we learned the smoke contained toxic chemicals that would claim many more lives after the 9/11 attacks,” Gazzola added, asking that the Iona community also pray for New Rochelle police officer Kathleen O’Connor-Funigiello and detective Mark Gado, who passed away in 2018 as a result of their efforts on 9/11. 

Following his remarks, Iona Provost Tricia Mulligan, Ph.D., proceeded with a laying of flowers on Iona’s 9/11 Memorial. The Iona Singers then performed God Bless America, with American Sign Language performed by Bridget Murphy ’25. The ceremony concluded with a closing prayer by Iona Chaplain Fr. Gerard Mulvey, OFM.


As the ceremony concluded, the Iona community was invited to view an exhibit of 9/11 photographs taken by John Botte, a former NYPD detective, who is widely known for his work documenting the aftermath of 9/11 at the World Trade Center. The exhibit in Ryan Library will remain on display until Friday.  

“Iona is a place of powerful stories;  the tradition and legacy that we continue to carry on here at Iona is one filled with the telling of these important stories – the stories of St. Columba, Edmund Rice, the Christian Brothers and the members of the Iona family who have been integral to our 83 years of history,” D’Alfonso reflected. “Today, we continue to do just that; to remember, honor and continue to tell the stories of the members of Iona University who we lost on September 11.”