ATHENS, Ga. - The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hit too close to home for one University of Georgia student, who is now raising money for relief efforts by selling T-shirts from a Web site.
Kevin Nealon, a junior originally from Dallas, Texas, was in bed that day when his roommate knocked on his door to tell him of the attacks.
"I thought he was joking," Mr. Nealon said.
After turning on the television, Mr. Nealon grew more concerned, because his father, an investment banker, works four blocks away from the World Trade Center towers and was scheduled to attend a meeting in the complex that morning.
"I didn't calm down until he called me from home and I saw it on the caller ID that it was him," Mr. Nealon said.
From his office window near the towers, his father watched as the second of two planes struck a tower. He later walked five miles to Grand Central Station to catch a train back to the family's home in Westport, Conn. More than 20 of Mr. Nealon's father's friends remain missing.
A few of Mr. Nealon's friends who worked in the towers are also missing, including a second cousin who got out of a tower safely but re-entered the building to save others.
"You hear these stories about ordinary people," Mr. Nealon said. "They are the real heroes."
Feeling helpless in light of the attacks, Mr. Nealon wanted to help any way he could. He donated money to the American Red Cross, but "that wasn't enough," he said.
So he decided to sell T-shirts commemorating the attacks, with proceeds going to the Red Cross. Mr. Nealon designed the shirts himself and has been working constantly to sell them at $12 each.
On Sept. 17, he launched a Web site promoting the shirts, www.september11forever. com. He ships the shirts out himself. So far, he has received orders for the shirts from as far away as Alaska and California.
"I don't even know how that happened," he said. "It's all from friends forwarding it (e-mail about the site) to friends."
Mr. Nealon has raised about $4,000 so far, and he hopes to bring in $20,000 for the Red Cross.
"This is the best way I can help," he said. "This has definitely gotten me through it because I know I can give back. This whole thing is pretty much the most fulfilling thing I've ever done in my life."
Besides the Web site, Mr. Nealon has taken the shirts to area stores and gas stations. He even sold them at a motorcycle rally in Hull last weekend. A member of Madison County-based Rollin' Thunder Riders approached Mr. Nealon - who was wearing one of the shirts - at a store.
"He asked how he could get one," Mr. Nealon said.
Mr. Nealon was invited to the riding club's Sept. 29 charity ride, where members sold his shirts in an auction and in a raffle.
The attacks have affected Mr. Nealon deeply, not only because he knows people who worked in the towers. An international business and Spanish major, Mr. Nealon said he will be working in New York City next summer.
"I don't know how I'm going to handle seeing the skyline without the World Trade Center there," he said. "It's not even fathomable to me that this has happened."
Where to get them
T-shirts are available online at www.september11forever.com.
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