September signifies the start of a fresh school year on college campuses in the United States. The onset of new classes sparks excitement for students, and with the return to campus this year in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, students are feeling an unbridled sense of possibility and motivation.
The start of the school year also brings the anniversary of 9/11. For some, this anniversary is just another day, but for others, it is a time to grieve; a time to remember the over 3,000 lives lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and a time to recount the innumerable ways American’s lives have changed.
This year, the University of Nevada, Reno honored these memories through a partnership between Veteran Services and the Center for Student Engagement. Together, these two University entities installed more than 3,000 origami cranes the week before Sept. 11, in a unique art display, "9/11: A Week of Remembrance and Services Through Art" on display at the Welcome Center on the first floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union.
The paper that is being used for the cranes is made from retired military uniforms that have been pulverized and repurposed. This marks 2021 as the first year that this commemorative installation will be on campus.
“The University staff and faculty have a shared experience around September 11th; everyone has a story and it impacted everyone at some level,” director of Veterans Services at the University, Chai Glenn-Cook, said. “The 20th anniversary is an appropriate moment in time to pause and think about that day, the lives lost and how it has shaped who we are as individuals and as a nation.”
Glenn-Cook has a special connection to this day.
“I was living in New York on September 11th and witnessed the events unfold before my eyes. This moment would continue to have a profound effect on my life, as it has for many others. As time passed, I am the Director of Veterans Services at the University and have worked with student veterans over the past nine years who had served in the proceeding wars. Listening to their stories of sacrifice and service only added to the layers of significance. Student veterans and family members bring a plethora of experiences, commitment and diversity to our campus. The 20th anniversary will be a unifying experiencing of my story from 2001 and my current position at Veterans Services.”
The involvement of the David J. Drakulich Art Foundation: For Freedom of Expression, whose mission is to improve healing and reintegration outcomes of veterans and military families through the arts, humanities and recreation, has been crucial to the creation and installation of the cranes. DJD Art Foundation was founded by Tina Drakulich and her family after her son David, was killed in action in Afghanistan on Jan. 9, 2008. The organization has flourished since its founding and has proven to provide arts and humanities programs that serve as outlets to veterans in the northern Nevada area.
“The paper used was made from retired service uniforms in DJD Art Foundation’s studio,” Glenn-Cook said. “They were a natural community partner and helped elevate the project to become a communal art installation. We cannot thank the Drakulich Foundation enough for supporting us and project over the past four months.”
Origami cranes are a popular Japanese symbol representing prosperity, healing and peace. The goal and purpose of the installation is for staff, faculty, students and the Reno community to stop, reflect, remember and move toward the future. Reflecting on the 3,000 cranes that represent the number of lives lost 20 years ago.
“This installation may be sobering and somber, but it also creates an opportunity to move forward, towards a brighter, progressive future,” Glenn-Cook said. “It’s a visual reminder of each and every life that was lost and conveys the weight and severity of this day.”
The Veteran Services Department provides a wide range of support and referral services for all undergraduate and graduate students who are military-connected. Besides processing GI BILL® benefits, we develop a community through our Veteran and Military Center (VMC) located in the PSAC building. The purpose of the VMC is to support in the transition of military-connected students through higher education, career, and civic endeavors. For our students, the VMC is more than just a location. It upholds familiar traditions that many have experienced in the military including camaraderie, respect and a sense of belonging. Veterans Services provides workshops, programming opportunities and social events to connect with fellow student veterans and the campus community.
This project has taken on a life of its own, through the students, with support from DJD Art Foundation. The Center for Student Engagement and the Joe Crowley Student Union were involved in both the creation of the paper and the installation of the exhibit. Numerous staff, faculty and students in the Welcome Center, Office for Prospective Students, Admissions and Records, Office of International Student Services, New Student Initiatives and other units have all contributed to folding and stringing the cranes as well.
“Every contribution, regardless of size, has helped bring this project to fruition,” Glenn-Cook said. “Someone could have folded one crane and another person could have folded 200; everyone involved with this project contributed in big and small ways.”
Cranes were installed at the Welcome Center on the first floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union starting Tuesday, Sept. 7. The installation will stay up until Constitution Day, Sept. 17. A similar number of American flags were planted in the front lawn of the Joe Crowley Student Union on Thursday, Sept. 9.