Sam Maller | Asst. Photo EditorRemembrance Week 2012
Matter of time: Time capsules mark the past, present and future of remembering Pan Am Flight 103 victims
Twenty-two years ago, a wall was built outside the Hall of Languages in remembrance of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims, of which 35 were Syracuse University students.
The wall, an elegant and sizable memorial dedicated to the students, stands as a beacon in front of one of the school’s most recognizable buildings. Many students and faculty members of the school carefully watched over the construction.
No one noticed the time capsule being put into place.
“We didn’t know anything about it,” said Ed Galvin, the director of the archives at Bird Library.
As director of the archives, Galvin has been heavily involved with all commemorative materials regarding Pan Am Flight 103, including collaborating with a Remembrance Scholar about creating a new time capsule in memory of the victims.
The Remembrance Wall was one of the first pieces dedicated to the victims of the crash.
The original capsule revealed pay stubs, business cards and photos of the people who built the wall. It was not a product of the Remembrance movement, but rather a snapshot of the lives of those constructing the memorial itself.
There were people smiling in front of their work, donning jeans and construction wear while creating one of the most beloved artifacts on the SU campus. There was a newspaper clipping featuring a story on the Remembrance movement. The capsule is covered in glue and stayed in the wall for 22 years, but the photos and artifacts inside are legible.
The Remembrance Wall was constructed in 1990, and it wasn’t until its renovation earlier this year that the original capsule was discovered, Galvin said.
It took some digging to come to this realization, however.
Galvin took his current position in 1995, after the wall was originally built.
So when the original time capsule was found, he assumed that other university officials would know something about its history.
He contacted Judy O’Rourke, the director of the Office of Undergraduate Studies who is now part of the committee for selecting Remembrance Scholars. He knew that she had been involved both in the induction of the wall as well as a faculty member during the 1988 tragedy.
Much to his surprise, O’Rourke was unaware that the time capsule existed.
He persisted and spoke with Ginny Denton, head of design and construction at the time. She also did not realize a time capsule had been placed.
Galvin took note that there was one clear point of separation between this time capsule and most others: There was no intended date of retrieval.
“They must have just taken whatever was in their pockets and put it in there and sealed it up and never told anybody on the university staff that this was happening, with the expectation, of course, that this was a memorial wall that was never coming down,” Galvin said. “With a true time capsule, you bury it with the expectation that in 50, 100 years, there will be a ceremony and you will open it.”
The accidental time capsule will not be the last to be buried at the Place of Remembrance, though there will be a few key differences.
The new time capsule will be placed with the knowledge of the university, it will be placed with the intention of having it opened in 26 years and, most importantly, it will be placed to commemorate the 35 SU victims of Pan Am Flight 103.
The idea came to the Remembrance Scholars while reflecting on the theme of this year’s Remembrance Week: Look back, act forward.
“We wanted to bring in this sense of the future, with the sense of the past,” said Anna Kahkoska, a senior biochemistry major. “The first thing that popped in to my mind was we should make a time capsule.”
Kahkoska is one of 35 Remembrance Scholars, students who are selected by university officials every year in order to memorialize the lives of the 35 SU victims.
The new capsule will be buried in the center planter bed right in front of the Remembrance Wall — mere feet from the once-secret location of its unlikely predecessor hidden within the wall upon its creation.
While Kahkoska recognized how beautiful the location of the capsule would be, she also acknowledged that it would put some constraints on the time capsule itself in terms of the size of the content inside. Keeping this in mind, the idea formed to incorporate a simple series of photos in the capsule.
Using a collection of photos of the victims themselves that represented the semester they spent in London before the crash, each scholar will select one photo that speaks to them.
After this semester comes to close, they will each take a photo of themselves; one that represents their semester in Syracuse. They will write a blurb about why they picked the picture they did, and include something about themselves.
Kahkoska said the Remembrance time capsule will be opened on the 50th anniversary of Pan Am Flight 103, 26 years from this year’s Remembrance Week.
For her, the time capsule project has meant more than any normal assignment. It has been an emotional process, a powerful reminder of the lives lost.
Said Kahkoska: “When we’re in the archives and we’re finding pictures of these kids, on campus, in places that we recognize, that I walk every day, it really kind of connects you.”
—Asst. Feature Editor Erik Van Rheenen contributed reporting to this article.
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