Just before 5 p.m. on Thursday September 11, a small gathering of students and staff sat talking quietly in Gordon Plaza. It was an overcast, humid day that felt more like August than September, with low clouds broken by occasional sunlight. A few rows of chairs faced the garden on the west side of the plaza, where a pile of smooth stones rests amongst freshly planted flowers.
The audience came to remember September 11, and the three UB alumni who lost their lives in the attacks. Omicron Delta Kappa began hosting the observance three years ago, when members of the society noticed that the memorial garden had fallen into neglect. The bronze memorial plaque is on the fence small and easy to miss. It is unsurprising that most of the audience members I speak to acknowledge they had no idea that three alumni died in the event. This is precisely why ODK took the time to weed the garden, plant flowers and host the memorial.
“We wanted the garden to be more visible,” explained Lauren Lake, president of ODK. “So people would be more aware of our connection to the events.”
At 5:05, it became clear that the podium and microphone wouldn’t be available for the event. Lauren broke the news to poet Ron Williams, but he just smiled, unfazed by the change in plans. He is an MFA candidate, but he is also an experienced teacher and reader.
And so, Lauren stepped to the front of the small audience and read out the three names of the alumni who died.
Joseph Maggitti, B.S. ‘75
Seamus Oneal, M.S. ‘97
Karen Seymour, B.S. ‘81
Then, she introduced the poet.
Ron spoke with a commanding, reverent voice. The piece began with the attacks themselves, and then moved to bigger themes: how easily things are destroyed, and how vital it is we remember. As Ron reads, some passersby stopped to listen, and the square grew quieter beneath the hum of traffic. The poem finished with the lines:
for one more morning
who we are
and whose we are
Scattered applause echoed from the not only from audience, but from further corners of the plaza.
Lauren returned to the front for a collective moment of silence. Then, the audience was invited to write messages on the blank rocks, then place them beneath the memorial plaque, to join the pile of stone messages from the earlier observance. Gradually, people made their way over to pick up the rocks and sit along the wall, lost in their own thoughts. Then, each added their message to the pile, eyes lingering on the names of the victims.