Date September 10, 2021
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9/11 at 20: Brown community members gather in memorial to lives lost

At a memorial marker on Wriston Quad that honors the six Brown alumni killed on 9/11, students, faculty and staff honored each of those graduates and reflected on the defining two-decade impact of the attacks.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On Sept. 11, 2001, more than 1,000 students, faculty and staff from Brown gathered at Manning Chapel and on the College Green, and lit candles across campus in recognition of the day’s tragic events and the nearly 3,000 lives lost in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Two decades later, members of the University community convened to offer prayers and remarks at a memorial marker on campus that honors the six Brown alumni killed on 9/11.

Jermaine Pearson, associate chaplain at Brown, began the Friday, Sept. 10, ceremony by reading the names of those six graduates: Donald F. Greene, Class of 1971; Charles Margiotta, Class of 1979; David Laychak, Class of 1983; Joanne F. Weil, Class of 1984; Raymond Rocha, Class of 1995; and Paul Sloan, Class of 1997.

With Laychak, Margiotta, Rocha and Sloan having played varsity football at Brown during their time as undergraduates, the current members of Brown’s football team turned out in full force at Friday’s event.

Head Coach James Perry shared in remarks that Margiotta, a New York City firefighter who was off-duty at the time of the attacks, lost his life after rushing to the World Trade Center as a first responder. Sloan, he noted, was a Bears teammate of Perry’s in the 1990s, and his name now graces the team room at Brown’s athletic complex.

“This is always a special day, and will always be a meaningful day, for Brown Football,” Perry said of the 9/11 anniversary.

University Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson shared the story of how one student, Luisa Patino, called on her own family traditions to inspire a campus-wide illumination on Sept. 11, 2001, working with fellow students, staff in Dining Services and other community members to place votive candles in memory of those killed. Despite the deep sense of uncertainty and vulnerability that the attacks prompted, moments of grace and unity like the one led by Patino offer cause for hope.

“I think that 9/11 began a season that continues to this day,” Cooper Nelson said. “We feel vulnerable. Things happened that we never could have imagined… Maybe it’s best that we couldn’t have imagined them. But what holds fast in those moments are love and friendship and grace.”

Brown President Christina H. Paxson shared the story of 14 members of the Brown medical school community who traveled to ground zero on the afternoon of the attacks, treating first responders on site — an example of the way Brown community members so often respond in moments of need. And she noted the significance of 9/11 as a defining moment in shaping lives for the decades that followed — not only for those most directly affected that day, but for everyone impacted by the war in Afghanistan, growing anti-Muslim sentiment or the new approach to national security in the wake of the attacks. 

“In every generation, it seems like there’s an event that shifts everything,” Paxson said. “For my grandparents, that was probably Pearl Harbor. For my parents’ generation, it was probably the assassination of John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. For my generation, it was 9/11… Even if you don’t have an immediate connection, the country is different.”

The anniversary is day to remember all of the people who were lost, she added, and the all of the things they did, including — for the six Brown alumni — their contributions on the Brown campus.

The gathering took place at the alumni memorial on Patriots Court, a section of Wriston Quadrangle dedicated in 1952 to members of the Brown community who have died in service of the nation. A Brown Alumni Magazine tribute published after the attacks shared the full stories of each of the six Brown graduates killed.

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