As the nation paused to observe the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Darlene Kinney was drawn to a familiar spot at the corner of Pawtucket and Fletcher streets. It’s a place called Kinney Square. There are fresh red and yellow mums on either side of a memorial stone there, which is engraved.
“In loving memory of our beloved son, husband and brother Brian K. Kinney,” it reads on the granite, flanked by a pair of small American flags. “Victim of hijacked United Flight #175. Dedicated Nov. 4, 2001.”
In leading a remembrance of seven alumni and friends of the university murdered by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, Chancellor Jacquie Moloney
first spent a few private moments at Kinney Square to place a wreath on the left side of the stone. She softly thanked family members for coming.
The Kinney family’s service station, where Brian worked as a kid, once stood on the same corner. The land is now owned by the university.
“We lived just down the street and used to come here for gas,” recalled Kinney’s widow, Alison Lewandowski. She smiled and cradled her dimpled son, Reagan, 5, in her right arm. She has remarried and lives in New Hampshire. “I made sure to be on those trips, to check out the cute boy who worked there.”
She misses the memorable smell of gas and oil, but finds solace returning to Kinney Square. “I am so glad the university chose to honor him like this,” she said.
Darlene Kinney says the pain of a son’s death doesn’t diminish, but comes back each September, “moment by moment, detailed.”
Morning traffic paused for red lights then whooshed past when the light flashed green. Other members of the Kinney family arrived. A pair of nuns from Bachand Hall across the street joined the cluster.
“I love this stone,” Darlene Kinney said. “Especially right here. It’s fitting. It means a lot. I come every season to decorate it.” Last Christmas, she draped two ornaments that say “Hope” over the stone.
Kinney recalled how her son talked about one day leaving his accounting job in Boston to set up an office on the same property as the gas station. He loved both businesses. He could set aside the numbers and slide into his grease-stained clothes any time he wanted that way.
“The station’s gone but in a way,” she said, pointing to the stone at the corner on Kinney Square, “he got to be here after all.”
Sweltering humidity covered the clan like a blanket. One of the nuns softly said the Lord’s Prayer and it was over.
Moloney walked down Pawtucket to a piece of land overlooking the Merrimack River alongside Leitch Hall, joining more than 100 university faculty and staff, families, dignitaries and students for a public remembrance of the seven alumni and friends of the university killed on 9/11. In the background was the Unity memorial, conceived by former student Andre Gorgenyi ’02 to memorialize the dead. Gorgenyi and art professor Jim Coates, whose sculpture design students developed Unity, were on hand.
Moloney assured relatives the university family will “never forget” their loved ones: Douglas A. Gowell ’71; John Ogonowski '72; Robert Hayes ’86; Patrick Quigley IV (husband of alumna Patricia Fleming Quigley ’86), Jessica Leigh Sachs a former student whose parents are alumni; Christopher Zarba ’79 and Kinney ’95.
They were among 2,996 people who died in the attacks.
The Air Force ROTC Detachment 345 Honor Guard and the Lowell Fire Department Honor Guard were there, and the UMass Lowell Marching Band rendered “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful.” A brass quartet offered “Amazing Grace.”
Campus pastoral intern Gary Gumuchian told the crowd, “the angels cried, and so did we” when the horror and enormity of 9/11 unfolded. “It was an event so horrific it was unimaginable,” he said.
He told families, “The UMass Lowell community walks with you.”
State Sen. Eileen Donoghue said the Massachusetts residents – more than 200 of them - who died that day are “our heroes, not victims.”
Students Amaris Torres, Mary Connell and Niyah West read short biographies of each of those lost. A chime tolled after each segment.
Moloney said later that Sept 11, 2001 was the beginning of “terrorism as we now know it” and that the university’s charge as an educator is to explore its roots and help eliminate its future.
She remains “in awe” of the families who lost members and continue on with life.
“They are a testament to how strong and resilient people are.”