April 25, 2014

New lettering on Eastern Michigan University's 9/11 Memorial honors lives lost and courage shown in attacks

by Geoff Larcom, Published June 08, 2012

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IN HONOR OF THE MANY LIVES LOST IN THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, AND TO RECALL/

THE COURAGE SHOWN BY SO MANY ON THAT DAY, WE SOLEMNLY PLACE THIS MEMORIAL HERE.

MAY WE FOREVER REMEMBER THEIR LIVES AND THEIR COURAGE. -- EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2011

This simple yet powerful message was recently sand blasted onto the cement steps of the 9/11 Memorial at Eastern Michigan University. The message adds to the impact of the memorial, which was dedicated on Sept. 11, 2011, during a public ceremony at the memorial site, next to Pease Auditorium on the southeast end of campus.

EMU's 9/11 Memorial is located behind Pease Auditorium, off Cross Street at the southeast end of campus.

The wording for the message was proposed by Mark Higbee, a professor of American History at Eastern who served on an ad-hoc committee that discussed the design for the memorial last summer.

"It was run by our ad-hoc committee and everyone loved (the message)," said John Donegan, EMU's chief of operations, who oversaw construction of the memorial.

The lettering was put in place on May 19 by Arnet's Monuments, a longtime area monument specialist that has locations in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. The lettering cost $1,900.

Donegan said long-term plans for the memorial could include more seating in the area, and an accessible path so wheelchair traffic can get atop the platform.  He noted that either initiative would require a special discussion on what sort of funding could be obtained or generated, and would take into consideration the other capital needs on campus.

The 14-foot steel support beam from what is presumed to be the South Tower of the World Trade Center weighs about 6800 pounds, and is pockmarked with dents made from molten metal falling on the beam.

Written on the side are "south," which is presumed to mean the South Tower, the second one hit but the first to collapse. The number "74" inscribed appears to mean the 74th floor, just several floors from the 78th floor, where the second plane crashed into the tower.

A side on one end of the beam is simply sheared off, testimony to the overwhelming forces at play in the collapse of the tower. It is as if the beam had simply been torn away.

The beam was formally unveiled on Sept. 11, 2011, on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, during a brief and moving afternoon ceremony at Pease Park. It rests on two six-inch concrete supports, which stand atop a circular platform with steps.

The memorial and the site came out of discussions of a committee of faculty, students and administrators formed shortly after the beam's arrival on campus last August. Among the key distinctions was labeling the beam's display a "memorial" rather than a "monument."

Whereas a monument has the effect of being thrust upon you in terms of its position and prominence, the committee thought EMU's display should be more reserved and respectful, and not directly accessible to passersby, said Colin Blakely, head of the EMU art department, who served on the committee.

The Pease site, situated in the low-lying, southeast corner of campus and partially shielded by trees and tucked into a hill, offered the perfect venue for experiencing the memorial in a setting that can offer quiet and individual reflection. The location, at the corner of Cross and Perrin streets, epitomizes the town-gown nature of the memorial.

"It's really a community piece," Donegan says.

The project cost $25,000, and was primarily paid for by donations and in-kind contributions.

Donegan and a colleague transported the beam to campus last August after picking it up from the New York Port Authority, which gifted the artifact to the University after receiving a letter from EMU president Susan Martin. Other such artifacts are being distributed around the country by the port authority, as a means of preserving the memory of the attacks and the brave response of so many Americans.

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Geoff Larcom

glarcom@emich.edu

734.487.4400

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