From the World Trade Centers and the Port of New Jersey to the Port of Houston and, finally, to UH, the 4,000-pound piece of steel housed in front of the University Center has travelled a long way.
University administration and students and local firemen, police and U.S. Army members came together Jan. 29 to celebrate the new World Trade Center Memorial and to remember the Sept. 11 attacks that have since shaped the country.
“(At) UH, we unite as friends and colleagues, representing dozens of different faiths, countries and ethnicities,” said student president of Houston Hillel Jesse Nagelberg. “We are proud to stand together and are deeply grateful for the blessings in our lives. Everyone in our nation was impacted by the events of (Sept. 11).”
“Whether we were minutes away from the destruction in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania, hours away in Houston or anywhere else in the country, even now, 12 years later, we find it hard to utter the words ‘Sept. 11th’ without choking up.”
Originally the brain child of then-Director of Public Relations for the Student Video Network Hammad Ahmed, the concept of the University obtaining a piece of the World Trade Centers was brought up in September 2009.
Then-Student Body President Kenneth Fomunung sent the request to President and Chancellor Renu Khator, and the project has been on the agenda since.
“At that single request from the then-representatives of the student body, on behalf of fellow student leaders, effectively triggered a series of fortunate, very lengthy events that would ultimately illustrate the unique beauty and opportunity that becomes possible when we work together as a community,” Fomunung said.
Though the piece, labeled “WTC-G-0046,” made its home in front of the UC in the new Reflection Garden at the beginning of the spring semester, the piece was officially dedicated on Jan. 29.
“I believe that we can transform a tragedy into blessing,” Fomunung said.
Current Student Body President Cedric Bandoh, who introduced the speakers at the event and had words of his own, ended the dedication by urging students and visitors to treat the World Trade Center Memorial and Reflection Garden seriously and respectfully, due to the sensitivity of the Sept. 11 attacks and the historical impact the piece holds.
“Terrorism brought down mountains on Sept. 11, 2001, but moved our national resolve instead. If anything, that cowardly act brought our nation together like no other event in our lifetimes. That cowardly act has strengthened our resolve to fight forth and preserve freedom for all Americans and bring liberty and justice to the oppressed and enslaved throughout the world,” Khator said.
“Today, as we dedicate this piece of steel — this cold and impersonal reminder of our nation’s darkest hour — let’s remember each and every one of those who died as well. Their families and friends will grieve and will do so forever. Today, we grieve with them.”