A Decade Later: The University Reflects on 9/11

August 31, 2011

As the city, nation and world pause to remember the 10th anniversary of the destruction and heroism that will forever mark lower Manhattan, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., Columbia University is commemorating the occasion with a range of programs rooted in its mission as a place of learning, research and reflection. And as New Yorkers, we mourn, we remember, and we rebuild.

Some 42 Columbians perished in the terrorist attacks that day. Many other members of the University community lost friends and family members. Today, 10 Columbia alumni and officials serve on the board of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Two recent alumni of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservationdesigned the Pentagon’s 9/11 memorial in Arlington, Va. Here on campus, in addition to a Sept. 11 memorial service on Low Plaza, a number of events and exhibits across a variety of disciplines will provide insight into what has happened over the past decade. These include forums sponsored by the Mailman School of Public Health, the School of International and Public Affairs and the architecture school.

A highlight off campus will be two nights of poetry and performance pieces at WNYC Radio’s Jerome L. Greene Performance Space. The event will feature the remarkable trove of recordings collected by the Columbia Center for Oral History, including the reminiscences of first responders, twin tower workers and many others who witnessed the destruction. Faculty members have conducted 9/11-related research on such topics as the mental health consequences for victims and caregivers, how memorials help us grieve, and how post-traumatic stress disorder can affect not just individuals, but entire populations.

And consider one example of a living memorial to a Columbian who perished at Ground Zero, a 2001 graduate named Tyler Ugolyn. While on the Lions basketball team, he started a clinic for local children in Harlem that his family and Columbia’s athletics department continue to this day in his memory.

As a college founded in New York City more than 250 years ago just a few short steps from what would later become the World Trade Center, it is understandable that Columbia both experienced the losses of Sept. 11, 2001, and participated in the many ways our community has responded.

This anniversary will be marked by many people here and around the world; this issue of The Record highlights some examples of how the University is not only honoring those who died, but also helping us understand how we have continued to live.