Jin Young Song and Douglass Alligood unveil Seeing Us, a memorial for Buffalo’s mass shooting victims

Ten Pillars

Jin Young Song and Douglass Alligood unveil Seeing Us, a memorial for Buffalo’s mass shooting victims

Seeing Us by Jin Young Song and Douglass Alligood (Courtesy 5/14 Memorial Commission)

New York politicians announced this week that Jin Young Song and Douglass Alligood have been selected to design a memorial for victims of the May 14, 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo. The announcement took place two years to the day since the racially-motivated terrorist attack at Tops Friendly Markets in East Buffalo.

The announcement was delivered by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown; Reverend Mark E. Blue, Buffalo NAACP president and chair of the 5/14 Memorial Commission; Governor Kathy Hochul; and other local politicians. It follows a multi-year competition process led by the 5/14 Memorial Commission.

Douglas Alligood is a partner at Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Jing Young Song is an associate professor at the University of Buffalo. Alligood is leading the project team at BIG to design Fort Worth’s National Juneteenth Museum.

The proposal by Song and Alligood is called Seeing Us. The design features ten interconnected pillars for each of the ten victims: Pearl Young, Ruth Whitfield, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackniel, Aaron Salter Jr., Geraldine Talley, Katherine Massey, Roberta A. Drury, Heyward Patterson, and Celestine Chaney.

Seeing Us features ten interconnected pillars outside of a multi-use support building. (Courtesy 5/14 Memorial Commission)

Each pillar will be faced in stone and have its own unique arc and height. Each will be inscribed with the names of victims and survivors. The interconnected pillars coalesce around a support building that will host educational programming, exhibitions, community activities, gatherings, and events. There will also be an elevated Memorial Walk on the roof of the support building that doubles as a park space and point of reflection.

“It is my hope that with this 5/14 memorial, we can offer some sense of healing, peace and hope for the future,” Mayor Brown said at a press conference.

“I have said it from the beginning of this process, that we have just one time to get it right,” Reverend Blue added. “We have reviewed the submissions. We have spoken with the families, and I am confident that we have made a good choice. What happened on 5/14 was an act of senseless violence and it was an act of hate. It’s my intent to make sure we have a memorial that the families and the communities can be proud of.”

The design features a Memorial Walk atop the support building. (Courtesy 5/14 Memorial Commission)

Song and Alligood’s proposal was informed by a lengthy community engagement process which ascertained input from survivors and family members of victims. Overall, the 5/14 Memorial Commission received twenty submissions for the project between November 1 and December 18, 2023. From there, three finalists were shortlisted. The design by Song and Alligood was ultimately closest to what community members had envisioned.

The project is attuned to other memorials erected across the U.S. for similar tragedies, including the SWA-designed memorial at Sandy Hook Elementary School and in Las Vegas.

The 5/14 Memorial’s estimated budget is $15 million. Governor Hochul has pledged $5 million of state money for the project, and Mayor Brown has announced that the city of Buffalo would put forth $1 million.

After this week’s announcement, the 5/14 Memorial Commission will begin a yearlong funding campaign to gather the remaining sum.