The dedication of Lehigh's on-campus 9/11 memorial garden kindled strong emotions in those attending.
Each fall, a dozen September golden rain trees that line a walkway alongside the Alumni Memorial Building will bloom bright yellow as a living memorial
to the 12 people with ties to Lehigh who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Beneath each of the 12 trees is a bronze plaque bearing the name of one of the eight alumni and four parents of alumni who lost their lives on 9/11. In a touching dedication ceremony held the evening of Sept. 10, current Lehigh students read brief remembrances written by family and friends of the dozen deceased members of the Lehigh family.
The tributes remembered the lopsided grin of the late Edward Pykon '90, the bright-colored suspenders worn by the late Philip Guza '67, and the red Ford Pinto that the late Thomas Sinton III '82 drove around campus as a Lehigh undergrad.
In one of the more poignant remembrances, Barbara Merdinger, who lost her husband Alan Merdinger '02P, found it incomprehensible that her husband has been gone for five years.
"Seasons have come and gone and only one day seems permanently fixed (Sept. 11)," she wrote.
That's why Lehigh's Association of Student Alumni (ASA) felt that a permanent "living" memorial commemorating the Lehigh family members who lost their lives that day was so necessary. The students took the concept and ran with it -- under the supervision of Colleen Griggs '99, director of student and young alumni programs. They came up with a half-dozen design ideas, presented them to Alumni Association leadership, forged a relationship with Lehigh's development office, and then raised money to help pay for the memorial.
"The ASAs are a remarkable group of 100-plus students who absolutely adore Lehigh," Griggs says. "This memorial -- and honoring these 12 lost members of the Lehigh family -- meant a lot to them, and they spent countless hours to ensure that it would be something that everyone connected to Lehigh would be proud of."
The memorial honors the following Lehigh alumni: Philip Guza '67, Allison Horstmann-Jones '92, Garry Lozier '78, Gregory Malone '81, Robert McLaughlin Jr. '93, Edward Pykon '90, Scott Saber '86, and Thomas Sinton III '82. The four parents of alumni who are honored are Alan Merdinger (father of Jill '02), Sareve Dukat (mother of Athena '97), Philip Calcagno (father of Kristine '88 and Karen '91), and Jeffrey LeVeen (father of Jeff '97).
A plaque at the start of the walkway explains the memorial's purpose: "As the roots of these trees grow into the earth and take hold, so will the memories of our beloved Lehigh family fill our hearts and minds. Let this memorial forever stand as a physical remembrance of our Lehigh family members who lost their lives in the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001."
Jeff LeVeen '97 is grateful that his alma mater hasn't forgotten his family's loss. He described his dad, Jeffrey E. LeVeen, as "just a guy who got up and went to work" on Sept. 11, 2001. The elder LeVeen was in his office at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center and wasn't able to make it out of the building.
"You know that you're going to lose your parents someday, but there's no way to prepare for a tragedy like this," LeVeen says. "But it's a nice thing that Lehigh has done for us and the other families that lost loved ones that day.
"It's a sign that people at Lehigh truly care. And I appreciate the efforts of all the people who made it possible."
If you're interested in contributing to the Lehigh 9-11 memorial, please contact Colleen Griggs at (610) 758-3137 or email@example.com.
-- Bill Doherty
Photo by John Kish IV
Lehigh Alumni Bulletin