The Emerson community returned to the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common Tuesday to pay tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – an ongoing tradition that began 17 years ago when the College came together at that same location to grieve and reflect.
The tragedy took the lives of three Emersonians, including Board of Trustees member Sonia Mercedes Morales Puopolo and Communication Studies Professor Myra Aronson, who were both onboard American Airlines Flight 11; as well as Communication Studies alumna Jane Simpkin ’88, who was on United Airlines Flight 175.
“It’s nice to see a group of people who understand the importance of coming together, no matter what,” said Vaughn Coleman ‘22, whose father, Keith, and uncle, Scott, lost their lives on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center.
“We’ve been here in hurricane-force winds; we have always been here to remember,” said Communication Studies Chair Gregory Payne, who has spearheaded the annual tribute with Puopolo’s daughter and Emerson alumna, Sonia Tita Puopolo ’96, MA ’97, since its inception.
When the vigil started, it involved college students and community members from around Boston, noted Puopolo.
“We live in a post-9/11 world. We live in a time where there’s such bombastic polarity between hate and love,” Puopolo said. “To all young people, stay true to kindness and love because at the end of the day light and love will win, with perseverance. Life is precious.”
“The idea is we open the 9/11 vigil up to anyone who wants to participate in coming together in a very grassroots effort for peace and kindness,” she said. “[Emerson’s 9/11 Vigil] is really something for the whole Boston community.”
Resident John Talanian stumbled upon Emerson’s vigil in 2007, while visiting the 9/11 memorial on Boston Common. Talanian who worked for the Boston branch of financial services company Cantor Fitzgerald, had almost taken a job at the company’s New York branch inside the World Trade Center just prior to the attacks. On Sept. 11, 2001, the lives of 658 of his co-workers at Cantor Fitzgerald, which occupied two of the top floors of One World Trade Center, were lost.
“I was looking for a place to go to remember the friends I lost and by [the mid-2000’s], a lot of the vigils had kind of ended,” Talanian said.
“I was very grateful that Greg and Tita reached out, and ever since I’ve been a part of this – and that’s been a part of my healing,” he said. “This is not just for Emerson — it’s for the city, the state and the world.”