University students assist

Rebecca Czaplewski

In the Florida Everglades, 110 columns stand. From the air, the columns form a triangle, pointing to the spot that ValuJet flight 592 crashed three years ago.
One column is reserved for each passenger and crew member killed in the crash; the varying heights represent the age of each victim.
Thirty architecture students from around the nation joined together to design and build the memorial for the victims of the 1996 crash, which killed everyone aboard.
College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture students John Cary and Jill Meyer brought a touch of University influence to the memorial. They were chosen to be among the 30 students through an application and lottery process.
An unveiling of the memorial took place Tuesday, the three-year anniversary of the catastrophe.
The project was sponsored by the American Institute of Architecture Students, a nationwide student organization. Cary is the president of the Minnesota chapter.
The pair traveled to Miami for a week during Thanksgiving break to take part in the groundbreaking for the project. The architecture college helped pay for the trips.
Both said the community service aspect of the memorial drew them in.
“We have a lot to give to the community right now,” said Cary, who took part in the staking and planning of the memorial. “This could be used as a model for other University programs to get involved more.”
Some of the family members of the victims were present at the groundbreaking, which Meyer said was an emotional part of the experience.
“It was really touching to talk to them,” said Meyer, who was involved in the project’s landscaping.
The actual area of the crash is inaccessible because of the swampy land, but the memorial is situated seven miles away, off a Florida highway where families and rescue personnel gathered after the crash.
The plane crashed minutes after takeoff when a shipment of chemical oxygen generators ignited in the cargo hold of the DC-9.
The memorial project cost more than $125,000 to design and construct, with organizations such as the American Institute of Architecture Students, the International Masonry Institute and the United Way contributing funds.
Thomas Fisher, dean of the architecture college, said the project is an example of the importance service projects such as the memorial have in design.
“We’ve got a really active group of students who believe that community outreach is an important part of student life,” Fisher said. “Design is a bridge between the University and the community.”