Plans return to build 9-11 memorial in town

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Sept. 11 memorial that will go in Cos Cob Park. The full design is set to be unveiled at a presenation on Monday and organizers of the project are seeking support.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Sept. 11 memorial that will go in Cos Cob Park. The full design is set to be unveiled at a presenation on Monday and organizers of the project are seeking support.

The idea to build a memorial in Greenwich to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks never went away. In fact its supporters say it’s stronger than ever.

Plans for this memorial, which will consist of two glass towers to represent the World Trade Center, were moving aggressively through the town two years ago in an effort to have it done closer to the 10th anniversary of the 2001 attacks, which claimed the lives of 29 people who lived in town or had close ties to Greenwich. But the effort stalled before final approvals could be granted.

The effort officially relaunched on Aug. 25 when Vineyard Vines held a fund-raiser for the construction of a memorial to be built in the new Cos Cob Park. And plans for that memorial will be unveiled Monday, Sept. 9, at 11 a.m. at Riverside Yacht Club. The public is invited to attend that announcement.

At the fund-raiser, the Greenwich Avenue retailer donated 10% of the store’s sales made that afternoon to benefit the local nonprofit organization Greenwich Community Projects Fund, which has spearheaded the campaign for the memorial. Additionally, according to James Ritman, president of the fund, approximately 50 special commemorative ties were sold outside the store during the event, where residents also dropped by to contribute checks to the cause.

In total, Mr. Ritman said, the event raised about $3,500 to $4,000 for the project.

While there is already one Sept. 11 memorial in town, it was largely put together by the family of Greenwich resident and Sept. 11 victim Ben Fisher. It is located at Great Captain’s Island due to Mr. Fisher’s strong love of the island, but over the years there have been suggestions to build a more accessible memorial for anyone who wishes to view it.

The design, which architect Charles Hilton has said was inspired by the towers of light that shone in place of the Twin Towers in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, will try to capture that image in material form using glass to construct the two towers of “light” that will comprise the memorial. The clear, glass towers will have an American flag design carved into them and each strip will contain the names of those killed in the attacks with ties to Greenwich.

There has been strong support demonstrated in the past for this memorial, particularly when it came before the Board of Selectmen in 2011, but finding a location for it was a major stumbling block.

Mr. Ritman said that it’s vital that the site be in a comfortable, serene location where visitors may come to pay their respects in peace, he said, which caused problems two years ago when a location was originally being scoped out. Several locations, including Greenwich Point, Grass Island and Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, were all on the table as potential sites in 2011, but each of the locations was eliminated based on worries over public access to the memorial, vandalism concerns and proximity to the constant drone brought about by Interstate 95.

Fortunately, Mr. Ritman said, the memorial’s official site at the new Cos Cob Park, which is under construction and slated to open in fall 2014, will be the perfect area for visitors to reflect and pay tribute.

“I can’t imagine a better site,” he said.

Mr. Ritman is not alone in his sentiments. While you can’t please everyone all the time, he told the Post, members of the Community Projects Fund have shown the area to the families of Sept. 11 victims, all of whom agreed the Cos Cob site was a fitting location for the memorial. Not only were there no negative comments about the location, some family members were moved to tears upon seeing it, Mr. Ritman added.

The most important feature of the Cos Cob Park location is that visitors, whether they are friends and family of the victims or the general public, will have access to the memorial 365 days a year without needing any kind of pass to do so, Mr. Ritman said.

It was important to the Community Projects Fund that whether someone wanted to pay their respects to victims on Sept. 11 each year or on one of the victim’s birthdays or anniversaries, they could access the memorial without any constraints. Furthermore, Mr. Ritman said, although the memorial will be placed at the highest point of the park for aesthetic purposes including a clear view of Indian Harbor, getting to the site itself will be easy, even for those who are disabled.

The memorial itself will also be a sight to behold, Mr. Ritman said. Charles Hilton Architects, the town-based firm charged with designing the memorial, has done an “incredible job” devising a powerful yet tasteful structure, he said.

The glass towers will stand 12 feet tall and 20 inches square, while compass points radiate from the center of the site, pointing to Washington, D., Manhattan’s World Trade Center site and Shanksville, Pa. The sole Greenwich victim from Shanksville plane crash will be memorialized in a separate but adjacent pavement marker. The towers will sit on stone pavement reminiscent of the World Trade Center plaza that will then wind down two hillside paths, connecting to the park’s perimeter.

“We sought to capture that powerful and ethereal expression in a permanent form for the new Greenwich Sept. 11 Memorial,” Mr. Hilton said in a press release.

The memorial will ultimately be a gift from the “residents of the town to the town,” and community support of the project has been “incredibly overwhelming,” Mr. Ritman said.

With only a few minor municipal approvals remaining to carry out the project, the only obstacle is finding a key donor to contribute to the cause, Mr. Ritman said. Whether it be a company, foundation or local family, the Community Projects Fund hopes to see someone step up to give the biggest piece of funding, thereby allowing the project to commence, he said.

Although a signature donor has not yet been found, those the organization has contacted to make a contribution have been more than willing to help, he added.

The memorial project has received “a really good response from the community,” Mr. Ritman said, adding that even a $2 check is useful because “every little bit helps.”

Having a local Sept. 11 memorial is critical because Greenwich was the town in Fairfield County that was most affected by the tragedy, and possibly even surpassed Westchester County in terms of community members lost, Mr. Ritman said. Family members and friends of victims are traveling to Manhattan or Westport to pay tribute at Sept. 11 memorials, but they have no convenient place to go on a regular basis, he said.

But a town-based memorial isn’t just for those who lost someone on Sept. 11, Mr. Ritman said. It’s also vital that future generations, who were not alive to witness the tragedy and its aftermath, have a physical object that will teach them about the event in a way that a textbook could not, he said. Future students should have something they can connect with to understand the unique impact Sept. 11 had on fellow Greenwich residents, he added.

The official Greenwich Sept. 11 memorial website is up and running and allows users to make online donations, shows the location of the memorial and what the structure will look like at Sept11memorialgreenwich.org.

 

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