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Honors Class Examines How We Commemorate 9/11


Posted 09/10/2015
Posted by Meagan Fazio


Six trees located between Dana Hall and the Harry Jack Gray Center have been decorated with red ribbons and photos in memory of the six UHart alumni who lost their lives on 9/11.

Six trees located between Dana Hall and the Harry Jack Gray Center have been decorated with red ribbons and photos in memory of the six UHart alumni who lost their lives on 9/11.

One of the reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.

One of the reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.

The juniors and seniors in Assistant Professor Sarah Senk’s “Remembering 9/11” honors seminar were just six or seven years old on Sept. 11, 2001. Despite their young age, many have memories of that day. As we mark 14 years since the terror attacks, these students are taking a closer look at the concept of memory and how the country’s collective experience continues to shape the culture.

The class is examining the many ways Americans commemorate the tragedy. The students will notice an example as they walk across campus over the next few days. Six trees that were planted in memory of the six University alumni who died in the World Trade Center have been adorned with red ribbons and photos for the 9/11 anniversary. The six alumni — James J. Hobin M'82; Robert L. Horohoe Jr. A'91, '92; Richard M. Keane M'84; Stuart S. Louis '80; George P. McLaughlin Jr. '86; and Daniel R. Nolan '83 — were all graduates of the Barney School of Business. Read more about their lives

Senk, a literature professor with a background in trauma studies, is assigning readings, movies, and research projects that look more closely at this type of tribute. She also asks students to think critically about how technology shapes the way we experience and commemorate tragedies.

“One thing I talk about is that the prevalence of digital cameras since the late '90s gives a way of reporting things that was not available to the general public even 20 years ago,” Senk explains. “So this changes the way people are thinking about how collectives or individuals may be thought of as traumatized, how individuals can have the concept of experiencing something first-hand even if they just saw it on television or images that were basically being disseminated live. They are seeing the images almost immediately after they were taken.”

Students had to apply for this demanding, yearlong honors seminar with a written statement about why they were interested in the topic. The process helped Senk choose the diverse group she had hoped for. In a class of 15 people, there are 10 different majors. Six of the University’s seven schools and colleges are represented.

“I finalized the syllabus after I picked the students who would be in it,” Senk says. “The course is really focused around the things they’re interested in. I tried to tailor the class to them.”

Senk's research on Sept. 11 has appeared in The American Prospect magazine and Contemporaries. She has also presented her work at several national conferences and at the George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. (Listen to a podcast from Senk's visit to the University of Aberdeen.)

Six trees located between Dana Hall and the Harry Jack Gray Center have been decorated with red ribbons and photos in memory of the six UHart alumni who lost their lives on 9/11.

Six trees located between Dana Hall and the Harry Jack Gray Center have been decorated with red ribbons and photos in memory of the six UHart alumni who lost their lives on 9/11.

One of the reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.

One of the reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.