Simplicity, Unity, Comfort

08/03/2007
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online. By SUSAN McMAHON

LOWELL In the fall, maybe sometime in September, the grass and green surrounding the stone and granite will begin to flower. The tall grass will be a shade of silver.

And visitors will be able to sit, listen to the rustle of wind through the grass, soak in the flowers all around them, and remember.

That's what the designers of a new UMass Lowell 9/11 memorial, to be placed along the Riverwalk, hope will happen. They created the space, filled with tall grass that resembles shooting fountains, a stone bench, and a round slate sculpture with one piece marked with Sept. 11 and the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center that rises a bit above the rest.

The goal was to design a place to stop, to contemplate, to remember.

Art students Gail Miller and Rebekah Hermans of Lowell, and Janet Wittlinger of Boxboro, describe their design as meditative, inviting, warming, comforting.

"We always wanted it to be a contemplative place," Miller said.

In September, the university will dedicate the new memorial to those killed on Sept. 11 who had ties to the school.

The sculpture will be inscribed with the names of Robert J. Hayes of Amesbury; Brian Kinney of Lowell; John Ogonowski of Dracut; Patrick Quigley, the husband of alumnus Patricia Quigley; Billerica native Jessica Sachs, the daughter of two alumni; and Christopher Zarba, who attended the university for two years.

The design was inspired by the many monuments sprinkled throughout the city, by the cobblestone that runs through the downtown streets, by the slate that rises along the Merrimack River. It will be on campus, along the Riverwalk, but also part of the city.

Called "Unity," the memorial is designed to be a place of comfort.

"It was unanimous that this was the most resolved proposal in a commemorative manner," said art professor James Coates. "It was partly because of its simplicity, its simplicity and unity. It just was visually and physically comforting."

The project was chosen from among six submitted by Coates' public-art class. A committee made up of representatives from the national park, the Student Government Association, the UMass Lowell administration and the Art Department made the final selection.

Now, Miller, Hermans and Wittlinger are ensconced in the details of implementing a project, determining the cost, making adjustments and preparing for construction.

"It's great that we had the opportunity to be involved with something like this," Hermans said.

"It's really special," added Wittlinger.