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U.Va. Nursing Graduate Turns Grief To Renewed Commitment

May 6, 2002-- William Joseph Foronjy Jr. had a big celebration planned for Sept. 11. It was his 30th birthday, and he was planning a night of serious partying with friends.

But that all changed. Word from family and friends in New York caught up in the chaos of the terrorist attacks led him to a night of cursing and crying.

Foronjy, from Long Island, New York, will graduate from the University of Virginia School of Nursing on May 19 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a renewed passion for helping people.

"I was working with patients at Western State Hospital when I heard about the attacks. While watching the tragedy unfold on television, family members called. My four cousins – all brothers, all New York firefighters -- entered the World Trade Center. It collapsed. One brother, Timmy, was missing. Ten days later, the brothers carried Timmy’s flag-draped body from the wreckage."

The outpouring of support and encouragement by faculty, staff and fellow students helped Foronjy to keep up with his demanding nursing school curriculum. "As I struggled through my grief, teachers responded, when appropriate, with hugs. Several days after the attacks, I was so freaked out that I was barely able to move. Unable to continue my rounds, I was given time off," he said.

"Timmy had given his life. The least I could do would be to drive to New York to help. For three days, pulling 12-hour shifts, I assisted inhalation and grief-stricken patients at New York University hospital. In between shifts, I lit candles in memory of lost Americans."

Foronjy has been greatly affected by friends and colleagues in Charlottesville and, of course, those in New York. "My faith in the goodness of people has been affirmed."

Foronjy always wanted to help people. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from State University of New York—Oneonta with plans to teach. He quickly realized four years of college does not provide students the tools to instill lifelong learning in others.

"I needed more education. After my cousin Vinnie graduated from law school, my mother said, ‘Billy you are a great talker, go to law school.’

"I was interested in law because I could argue and talk and win," Foronjy said. "I chose not to seek a career in law eventually because I saw no quality time with people. … I could not operate in a me-first world."

Foronjy was admitted to the U.Va. Nursing School’s second-degree program in September 2000. The two-year program offers a special bachelor of science in nursing degree for non-nurses with at least a bachelor’s degree in another area.

After graduation, he will have completed his two-year educational leave from the military. He then plans to complete active duty at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington.

Inspired by firefighters and others at Ground Zero in New York -- and supportive faculty and staff at U.Va. -- Foronjy plans to return to U.Va. to pursue a nursing career.

"As a nurse, I am interested in more than financial gains. I am interested in physical and emotional growth and improvement of health."

Contact: Katherine Jackson, (434) 924-3629

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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