Every year on Sept. 11, Binghamton University plants flags around campus in honor of the victims of the terrorist attacks that took place on that day in 2001. Flags are lowered to half-mast and there is usually a moment of silence at the moment of the attack, but there is little that actively reminds the University community of its members we lost that day.
The 15 BU alumni who were killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are memorialized on a granite monument in the Memorial Courtyard in the center of the Fine Arts Building, a courtyard that was originally dedicated in 2002 to their memory. Though this is a beautiful and contemplative space, it has since expanded to include other memorials for campus community members who have passed away. Because of this, there is no longer a separate space for the 9/11 memorial. Although there doesn’t necessarily need to be a special space honoring the memory of these victims, the University needs to do more to honor the members of the University family lost on that day.
Rather than dedicating a silent memorial to the event, BU should celebrate the lives its students led while they were here. One of the ways in which the University can make a meaningful statement about the victims is by naming popular spaces after them and mapping the activities they participated in with memorials that bear their names. WHRW 90.5 FM, the campus radio station, for example, has named its broadcast space after Paul Battaglia, ‘00, who was the station’s general manager in the two years before he was killed when the north tower was attacked. When you enter the space, you remember who Paul was, what he did for this University and that he was just like you. The impact is significant.
At other universities, memorials to the victims of 9/11 take different forms. Boston College, for example, has a Memorial Labyrinth to encourage mediation on “the intersection of the human and the divine.” At Rockland Community College, there is a 9/11 Memorial Garden with a sculpture incorporating pieces of steel from the site at its center.
These memorials offer different — but equally significant — opportunities for remembrance. From a contemplative experience in the labyrinth to a visceral one upon seeing rubble from the World Trade Center, who is to say which way of mourning is most effective, appropriate or healing? Whatever the answer to that question, the important consideration is the people at the center of it all. Memorials have a dual responsibility to those they are honoring and to those who will seek the comfort of the monument. Memorialization is a complicated process, but the goal must always be to enter into a conversation with the basic facts of humanity.
The BU community remains tightly tied to the community in New York City that lost so many that day. The University should provide spaces for students to consider the ways in which the 9/11 victims impacted their campus. It must go beyond a stoic stone in the middle of an academic building. As the link between so many people affected by the tragedy that occurred 16 years ago, BU needs to create a memorial that moves its viewers and forces them to reckon with complex and difficult emotions.
Georgia Westbrook is a senior majoring in art history.