Joined by community activists, non-profit leaders and government officials, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders dedicated a new multi-use building at the County Public Safety Complex in the name of disability advocate Colleen Fraser, the Elizabeth resident killed in the 9/11 attacks who earlier in her career headed the Union County Office for the Disabled.
Fraser, 51, was on board United Airlines Flight 93, en route to a grant writing seminar in Reno, Nevada. The plane crashed in Shanksville, PA after passengers fought back against the terrorist hijackers, who were likely to target a federal government location in Washington DC.
“Colleen Fraser may be gone, but her impact on others and her advocacy lasts,” said Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter. “She would be proud to know that the Colleen Fraser building will help residents in need, provide life-saving EMS services, assist those looking to vote, and foster those looking to make our planet a greener place.”
Among those on hand to pay tribute to Fraser were Fraser’s family including her sister, Christine, Union County Freeholders and Department heads including members of the County’s Office for the Disabled, Westfield officials, and colleagues including Ethan B. Ellis, former Executive Director of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, and Sid Blanchard, the Executive Director of Community Access.
Officials unveiled the building’s marquee with Fraser’s name and an interior plaque and held a ceremony in the building’s courtyard and plaza area.
Recalling the passenger’s heroic efforts in fighting back against the plane’s hijackers, Carter quoted a tribute to Fraser from a colleague and friend of Colleen's, Robin (Zimenoff) Bolduc:
“I can picture her on that plane -- flaming red hair, cane flying -- leading the charge -- 'We are Americans -- we rule our own destinies.’ ”
A native of Elizabeth, New Jersey and a graduate of Rutgers University, Fraser carried a tiny copy of the Constitution with her to encourage the disabled to become their own advocates. Born with a condition that affected her legs, Fraser stood 4’6” but was well-known as a “firebrand” and relentless advocate. At the time of her death, she was serving as Executive Director of the Progressive Center for Independent Living, and vice chairwoman of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities.
After graduating from Rutgers University, where she studied English literature, Fraser took a job as a case manager with Community Access Unlimited, an advocacy group in Elizabeth for people with disabilities. She was director of DIAL Inc., a center for independent living in Clifton, and also served as director of Union County's Office for the Disabled in the 1980s.
The three-story Fraser building, located at the County’s Public Safety Complex at 300 North Avenue East in Westfield, contains offices for the County Clerk, the Medical Examiner’s Office, Weights and Measures, Consumer Affairs, houses the County EMS operations, the Union County Superintendent of Schools, and the Rutgers Cooperative Extension program of Union County. It has a garage and deck for emergency operations vehicles and resources.
The LEED-certified Fraser building also features an energy efficient exterior skin, solar panels and an innovative geothermal heat pump system—a renewable energy source. The building cost $11 million to construct.