By Ed Brennen
UMass Lowell seniors Jared Bilancieri and John Driscoll were just infants when terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Like most of their classmates, they were too young to comprehend the tragedy of that day.
But 20 years later, as the UML community gathered to remember the seven alumni and friends of the university killed in the attacks, Bilancieri and Driscoll stood prominently in the crowd.
As cadets in the Air Force ROTC, Detachment 345, they are both recipients of the John Ogonowski Memorial Scholarship
— which honors alumnus John Ogonowski ’72, ’03 (H), captain of American Airlines Flight 11 that was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Ogonowski was also a U.S. Air Force veteran.
“Captain John Ogonowski gave the ultimate sacrifice. To continue his legacy is a tremendous honor,” said Driscoll, a pharmaceutical sciences major from Westwood, Massachusetts. “We are grateful to his family for keeping his name alive with this generous scholarship.”
Bilancieri, a physics major from Marlborough, Massachusetts, said that even though students today only know about 9/11 from historical accounts, “it’s important to see how we’re able to come together as one and work together for a common goal.”
Held at the Unity memorial outside Leitch Hall on East Campus — under heavy, gray skies that struggled to hold back rain drops — the remembrance was attended by dozens of university representatives and local officials, as well as several family members and friends of those lost on 9/11.
“None of us will ever know the pain that you feel on a day like today, but we can stand here with you, 20 years later, still united,” Chancellor Jacquie Moloney
said. “We can honor their memories and remember personal stories about them that make us smile. … It’s these stories that can turn our sadness into productive action, into productive service, and motivate us to do good.”
Students took turns reading brief biographies of those lost. In addition to Ogonowski, there was: Douglas A. Gowell ’71; Robert Hayes ’86; Brian Kinney ’95; Patrick J. Quigley IV, who was the husband of UMass Lowell alumna Patricia Fleming Quigley ‘86; Jessica Leigh Sachs, a former student whose parents are alumni; and Christopher Zarba ’79.
Ryan D. Fortini ’98, a retired New York State Police Trooper who died last year from illnesses stemming from his assignment at Ground Zero following the attacks, was also recognized.
U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, a Lowell native, recalled the wide range of emotions on 9/11 — “the fear, the horror, the sorrow and the rage’’ — and noted that, ultimately, the terrorists failed in their quest to divide the country.
“Rather than tearing us apart, those heinous attacks brought us together, united by what it means to be an American, united by the thousands of heroic firefighters, EMTs, police officers and ordinary people who worked around the clock to save as many people as possible,” she said.
“Our country was never stronger, never more committed to each other,” agreed state Rep. Tom Golden ’94.
State Sen. Ed Kennedy said UML’s Unity memorial, which was dedicated in 2004, helps keep alive the importance of the day for a generation of students who have come of age in a post-9/11 world.
“They have grown up in a world that, in many ways, was shaped by the tragic attacks,” he said.
Andre Gorgenyi ’03, who proposed the idea for the memorial while a member of the Student Government Association, said it’s “powerful” to see students learning about members of the UML community killed on 9/11.
“Who we lost is forever going to be part of us, and we’re going to be part of them,” said Gorgenyi, who is chief development officer at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Massachusetts.
The remembrance also included remarks from Campus Minister Imogene Stulken
and Lowell National Historical Park Acting Regional Director Celeste Bernardo.
Olivia Minchello ’21, a master of music education student, sang the national anthem while the Lowell Fire Department Color Guard presented the colors.
The UML Chamber Singers performed “Amazing Grace,” and music studies major Cristian Ramos Delgado closed the ceremony with a poignant performance of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He was accompanied on keyboard by Visiting Faculty Lecturer Jonathan Richter
“To perform in front of people who had a direct connection to this day was really meaningful,” said Minchello, who is from Winchester, Massachusetts. “For the students who weren’t born yet or were just infants, it’s important that we don’t forget.”
Before the ceremony, Moloney laid a wreath at the Brian Kinney Memorial, located at the corner of Fletcher and Pawtucket streets. Kinney, a business alumnus who went on to Big 4 accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, used to work at his family’s gas station that once stood at the site.