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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    The Bells Chime For Stony Brook

    It’s the kind of day where the cold hurls itself around the corner of the Melville Library in search of its next victim. An older woman, walking her black Labrador retriever, pulls her chin down into her coat, resisting the attack. The cold continues on.

    Under the blotchy gray sky, a few students leave the Humanities building at Stony Brook University like sluggish horses out of the gate. The only road in front of them leads to another class or exam.

    The four flagpoles next to Humanities survey the scene. Two display white Stony Brook flags, the third the American flag and the last the New York flag. Each one’s pulley knocks against its black-metal pole. All clang in unison creating a solitary beat. A cell phone reads 10:57 and the trees seem to be growing restless. Although the breeze is dormant, they sway back and forth slightly, like five-year-olds who can’t wait any longer.

    Three minutes to go.

    In classroom throughout the campus, students — many slumped over chairs and desks — wait.

    Then it happens. A sound rings out — the sound of the bells.

    The sound reverberates throughout the campus, thrusting its way into every nook and cranny.

    The sound is a mixture of cheerfulness and control, ringing each hour on the hour. The electronic, pre-recorded chimes remind Ashley Barton, a journalism major, of church bells.

    As the chimes ring out, a few students carrying notebooks walk across the academic mall so wrapped up in their own conversation they do not notice the trees still rocking back and forth.

    For at least the past 10 years this scene has played out every hour. The weather, students and flag positions may have changed, but the bells remained constant.

    The only reason for the bells is due to Stony Brook’s lack of a bell tower, according to Matthew Kibby, Landscape Manager. Most schools do have a bell tower, so Stony Brook’s answer to the problem is to mount a loudspeaker on top of the Administration building. For 364 days a year, the bell rings for everyone on campus. But on one day, Sept. 11, the bell tolls for much more than just Stony Brook.

    The bells do not sound hourly on this day. Instead, they chime twice. First, at 8 a.m., marking the time the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Second, while the procession moves. Kibby rings the bells. On this particular day, Kibby sits in building seven of the services complex, located by the power plant. He is almost a mile away from the memorial services, which start at the Humanities monument and end at the SAC bus loop. Kibby, who has been the bell-ringer on Sept. 11 for the last three years, has never witnessed the procession. He does not wear a memorial pin or tie. He just waits for Assistant Chief of Police Douglas Little’s call to say the procession is moving.

    Then, he rings the bell. Over and over he flicks the toggle switch mounted on a box resembling an amplifier. He thinks about the attack but says other than the phone call from Chief Little, he has “no idea what’s going on.”

    The rest of the day, the bells remain silent. Then on Sept. 12, the bells resume their hourly chime as life continues on.

    Although the bells have sounded on campus for longer than most students have attended the university, many have never heard them. “I didn’t know what my friend was talking about at first,” said Brittany Popkin, 20, a health sciences major. Afterwards, Popkin did notice the bells. “What I first thought of is, ‘Wow, she’s really right.'” Even administrators, working in the very building the loudspeaker is mounted on, don’t recall hearing the bells. John Fogarty, Director of Capital Planning, remembered the bells about 50 seconds after a reporter first mentioned them. “Come to think of it, I do remember hearing them,” recalled Fogarty.

    Soon, winter will turn into spring. The trees will sprout leaves, students will walk around in shorts, and more dogs will stroll about with their masters and students cramped into windowless lecture halls will anxiously await the semesters end. And through it all, the bells will chime.

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