(“America the Beautiful” playing)
Pipers from the Houston Fire Department and members of Texas Task Force 1, who deployed to New York after the September 11 attacks, were part of the dedication ceremony outside the newly renovated University Center.
UH is the first and only university in Texas that has a piece of the World Trade Center on its campus.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who was part of the Task Force, says it’s the right place for the 3,888-pound steel beam.
“We should always work together to ensure that nothing of this magnitude ever happens here again. And for young people who are coming to this institution to build on their education and on their vision for the future, I think this is one of the most appropriate places where such an artifact could be at.”
The university applied for a piece of the World Trade Center to the New York and New Jersey Port Authority in 2009. A student brought up the idea to the Student Government Association, which then worked with UH Chancellor Renu Khator on the application.
Kenneth Fomunung was the student body president at the time.
“That was kind of like the initial seed that we planted and then it would take three administrations of the Student Government Association of the University of Houston to finally see that come to birth.”
The beam piece arrived in Houston in the fall of 2011 and was stored in the UH Energy Research Park until a location could be identified.
Chancellor Khator says placing the memorial in front of the student center made the most sense.
“Because this is the heart of the campus here. More people walk from here than any other part of the campus, and I just hope as they walk from here, they’ll look at this piece and they’ll remember, they’ll grieve, but at the same time they will also double their resolve that they will never, ever allow this kind of act of terrorism to take place in this country.”
Jene Malixi, a sports administration major at UH, says 9/11 made a huge impact on him and having the memorial here on campus means a lot. But he says he’s worried about possible vandalism of the dark gray nearly 6-foot long beam.
“I doubt somebody is going to try and steal it but I’m just worried that somebody is going to spray-paint it and say, that was an inside job or any ridiculous thing like that.”
To avoid that eventuality, UH Police will pay extra attention to the area. In addition, cameras around the new University Center should serve as a deterrent for potential vandals.