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Sports rivals come together Murphy greets N.Y.-bound aid convoy from Cleveland

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

By Mackenzie Carpenter, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns did not play Sunday night because of last week's terrorist attacks, but yesterday the two cities met in a different venue.

Standing in brilliant sunshine in front of a Salvation Army warehouse in East Liberty, the mayors of Cleveland and Pittsburgh shook hands as a convoy of nearly 50 trucks and vans from Cleveland arrived with about 400,000 pounds of donations bound for rescue workers in New York.

With flags flying from his official automobile, Mayor Michael White pulled up shortly before 2 p.m. at the huge warehouse at Hamilton Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard, which serves as the Salvation Army's Midwest staging area.

Behind White's car, almost as far as the eye could see, idled a line of vans and trucks filled with bottled water, baby wipes, work clothes, dog food and even small rubber boots for the dogs involved in the rescue effort whose paws have been cut by debris.

"Hello, my friend, thanks for receiving us," said White, dressed in blue jeans, an open-necked shirt and a dark blue blazer, as he stepped out of the car and greeted Murphy.

"Welcome to you. This is amazing," responded Murphy, clad in olive green suit and tie, who then turned to the men and women spilling out of their vehicles.

"Are you all from Cleveland? Well, the weather's always beautiful like this in Pittsburgh," he said, as hoots of disbelieving laughter filled the air.

White made the trip despite requests to the public over the weekend by the Salvation Army's national organization to hold off on "in-kind" donations until there is more space for it. Supplies have been piling up in warehouses outside of New York City.

Earlier, Murphy, too, expressed some reservations about the need to unload the goods in Pittsburgh.

"We would have preferred [the convoy] would have gone on to New York. It seems more efficient that way," he said in an interview while waiting for it to arrive.

But because the Salvation Army's facility for routing materials and supplies from the Midwest is here, "this was the Salvation Army's decision.

"It seemed to us extra work, to unload it here only to have to pack it up again, but we're happy to work with the Salvation Army so we'll store it here until it's needed."

Asked why he went ahead and delivered the goods despite the Salvation Army's request to hold off, White referred the question to the Salvation Army.

"This was the process they wanted to utilize, and I'm not going to second-guess them," said White, adding that "we're not going to be digging at the [World Trade Center] site [just] for the next few days. Everyone is going to be there for at least a month and probably more. There's no doubt these goods will be needed."

During their short encounter, White and Murphy briefly compared notes about how they felt at learning that United Flight 93 had ventured into the airspace of their cities, turning sharply over Cleveland and flying over Pittsburgh before crashing in Somerset County.

Once White was notified by his public safety department of the plane's sudden change in direction, "there was a moment of concern there," he said, as Murphy nodded.

"It was a concern for us, too," Murphy said.

White, a three-term Democratic mayor who did not run for re-election this year, sought to put the day's trip in a positive light, noting he had visited Pittsburgh frequently as a child.

"These two cities are very similar," he said. "And we've felt Pittsburgh has been good to us in a crisis -- especially when we lost our football team. We have a lot in common -- except on that next day we play football."

The trip between the two cities usually takes 2 1/2 hours, but this journey was nearly double that. White and his entourage left Cleveland at around 9 a.m., driving at 45 mph to be safe, said his press spokeswoman, Della Homenik.

She noted that donations were collected Sunday during a massive drive that had 400 to 500 cars an hour inching along downtown streets.

"We had cars lined up in front of City Hall all day long," said Homenik.

"We did this drive for two reasons. One, the material is needed. And two, it was really important for Clevelanders to feel they were doing something to help."

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