By Logan Hullinger
INDIANA — Every day, thousands of Indiana University of Pennsylvania students walk through the Oak Grove and pass a towering piece of scrap metal by Sutton Hall. The 13-foot hunk is a memento of the country’s most catastrophic terrorist attack.
The rusted piece of steel once formed part of an enormous beam that rose from the base of one of the World Trade Center towers in Manhattan. On Sept. 11, 2001, the beam came down along with the rest of the tower and its twin after two commercial airliners plowed into them.
The trident-shaped piece of beam came to the IUP campus when the Kovalchick Corp., a local scrap dealer, loaned it long-term to the university. The company purchased pieces of the fallen towers from a New Jersey recycler.
Since its Oct. 4, 2002, dedication, the remnant has served as the centerpiece of IUP’s annual 9/11 memorial service. The 16th anniversary service is scheduled once again for Monday morning, at the hour when the first plane struck.
But how much of a story can be told by a fragment of a fallen building in New York City to a campus of 12,000 students from around the world?
Quite a long one, according to IUP spokeswoman Michelle S. Fryling. She was on campus during the attacks, she said, and has not missed a memorial service since then.
“When the planes crashed, we were all in incredible states of shock,” Fryling said, wiping a tear in her Sutton Hall office on Wednesday. “It was so tough to watch. And we were especially worried about students with families and international students.”
The memorial isn’t a happy reminder, Fryling said. But it’s an important symbol.
“It speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit,” she said.
The 19 attackers were from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. Muslims in America were targeted with reprisals. President George W. Bush visited a mosque in an effort to forestall hate crimes.
At IUP, the community was supportive, according to Fryling.
“Our international students were protected and embraced,” Fryling said. “They mourned with us.”
IUP professor Kustim Wibowo, an information services and decision sciences faculty member, recalled “little-to-no” backlash affecting local Muslims after the attacks.
“There was mostly just unity,” Wibowo said in a brief email exchange Thursday. “The IUP community supports each other.”
IN A WRITTEN STATEMENT on Wednesday, IUP President Michael A. Driscoll said it was important to commemorate such events.
“First, we lost some of our own that day. That makes 9/11 very personal to us,” the statement read. “It is important to us that we remember, as time passes and the generations change, that part of our family was lost in New York City on September 11, 2001.”
A smaller granite memorial next to the steel remnant is dedicated to the nearly 3,000 lives lost in 9/11, including three IUP alumni who died in the World Trade Center — William Moskal ’79, Donald Jones ’80, and William Sugra ’93.
Driscoll said Monday’s scheduled commemoration provides an opportunity to revisit a spirit of national unity that followed.
“We are at a point where many of our current students don’t remember the 9/11 attacks and didn’t see how this tragedy brought all of America together,” wrote Driscoll. “In these challenging times, it is doubly important that we recall how that tragedy brought us together for the good of our country.”
The annual memorial service is scheduled for Monday, 8:30-9:30 a.m., in the Oak Grove. Speakers include Driscoll and Michael J. Hood, dean of the College of Fine Arts.
Logan R. Hullinger, a senior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a staff reporter for The HawkEye, is from Clarion. He may be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu