UMass students propose site in tribute to attack victims

08/01/2007
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online. By SUSAN McMAHON Sun Staff

LOWELL They sat in these same classrooms. They walked the same paths. And then, suddenly, they were gone.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as UMass Lowell registered the number of losses to its extended community, some students felt an indelible link with those who had come before.

As a result, leaders of the student government association have proposed a commemoration of the lives that were lost that day, a place along the Riverwalk to go and remember.

"Because of the incredible link we have as members of the UMass Lowell community, a part of us is in each of them, and a part of them will forever be in each of us," said Andre Gorgenyi, a leader in the campus' student government. "I anticipate that the site being designed will be a place where any student can go to reflect and meditate upon life, and also be a place where anyone can go to reconnect that link to those who were lost."

Organizers are planning a site for quiet contemplation, where students and walkers, faculty and families, can go to drink in the view of the Merrimack River and the North Campus buildings overlooking it.

Perhaps people will go to think about someone they lost. Perhaps they'll go to take a break from studying. But the goal is to have an overarching sense of peace and tranquility ensconcing the area, to make quiet contemplation possible.

Gorgenyi remains wary of calling it a memorial. Rather, it's a commemorative, a tribute to the lives of seven people with ties to the university.

"It's our responsibility to honor them by remembering their lives and their contributions to society," Gorgenyi said.

The plans for a commemorative will be officially announced during the university's Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony tomorrow.

Seven victims of the terrorist attacks were either alumni of the university, attended classes there, or were closely related to alumni.

Included in the design will be the names of alumni Douglas A. Gowell of Methuen, Robert J. Hayes of Amesbury, Brian Kinney of Lowell and John Ogonowski of Dracut. Patrick Quigley, who was the husband of alumnus Patricia Quigley; Billerica native Jessica Sachs, daughter of two alumni; and Christopher Zarba, who took classes at the university for two years, will also be included in the monument.

Organizers said sensitivity to the families of those lost was paramount when they went about planning the project.

"We've gone about it fairly quietly. We want time for it to unfold in a comfortable way for everybody," said James Coates, chairman of the university's art department.

Students in Coates' senior art class will design the commemorative, with various proposals to be exhibited later in the year. A selection committee will then choose which design will be implemented.

Thus far, the project has been compared to the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon, a place that serves both as a remembrance of the person and as a quiet point of reflection.

"While it won't be specifically a memorial to Sept. 11, it will be a contemplative, commemorative place where those people will be memorialized," Coates said. "Those are the guidelines. As to the actual form and shape the projects will take, it's kind of early to say."

School officials and students hope the commemorative will be in place by the end of the spring semester. Funds for the completion of the project will come from both the student government and the university.

But its location on the Riverwalk a prime spot for city residents ensures that it will be available for anyone who wants to visit.

"It's really for everyone," said Paul Marion, UMass Lowell's community-relations liaison. "It will be a place where community or family members can visit whenever they want."

Susan McMahon's e-mail address is smcmahon@lowellsun.com .