Sept. 11 memorial plans proceed; public support for final push needed

Richard Blumenthal

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal showed his support for the planned memorial – Ken Borsuk

As the town gathers today to mark remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that took the lives of 32 people connected to Greenwich, plans for a memorial in Cos Cob Park are entering their final phase.

Tonight’s ceremony is scheduled to begin promptly at 6:30 at the Glenville Fire Station. The ceremony, put together by the September 11th Remembrance Committee and the Greenwich American Legion Post 29, will feature participation from the Greenwich Fellowship of Clergy and include a salute to first responders as well as a tribute to those killed. People are encouraged to bring flowers to lay by the memorial piece of steel at the fire station, steel that was once part of the World Trade Center.

But it is this new memorial planned for Cos Cob Park that could well be the future site of town ceremonies. The money for it is being raised privately, and James Ritman, president of the Greenwich Community Projects Fund, said once that’s done the memorial will be given to the town as a gift. It is planned for the public park to be able to give open accessibility to all through walking paths in an area that provides the opportunity for quiet contemplation and tribute.

The hope is that the planned memorial, which will consist of two glass towers to represent the World Trade Center, will be finished in time for Sept. 11, 2015. The design of the memorial, where an American flag will be carved into each tower and the names of those lost from Greenwich placed inside the stripes, has been highly praised and it has received all needed town land use approvals. The only thing needed now is public support as a critical part of the fund-raising campaign begins to get to the $500,000 needed.

To begin that push there was a strong show of public support at the second annual September 11th Memorial/Greenwich Breakfast on Sept. 4. Not only did First Selectman Peter Tesei give his endorsement of the project but U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th), both of whom are town residents, were on hand to show their support. State Reps. Livvy Floren (R-149th), Stephen Walko (R-150th) and Fred Camillo (R-151st) were also there as supporters. But it’s the public’s financial support that is needed most now.

Mr. Ritman said he “was energized and excited” over how far the project had come in the last year, saying there was a lot of momentum behind it. Within the last 12 months there had been more than 500 donations totaling more than $250,000. At last year’s breakfast, the fund-raising campaign was formally launched to not only find money but also raise awareness. Calling it a “unique and beautiful memorial,” Mr. Ritman reported on the unanimous approval by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

“This approval provides the perfect setting and location at the new Cos Cob Park overlooking the Long Island Sound,” Mr. Ritman said. “I thank everyone from the town who helped us to get this approved. We are very excited to be a part of this nine-acre public space.”

But more is needed, and Mr. Ritman said to help this memorial become a reality help will be sought not just from Greenwich residents but from the business community and large donors as well. He said that $500,000 still needs to be raised, but added that, considering how far the project had come within the last year, “that’s not a lot.” Mr. Ritman said as the years go by a memorial like this is needed more than ever.

“With each year that goes by I feel there is less and less of a reverence for the loss and tragic events of that day,” Mr. Ritman said. “I got involved in this project because I believe in my heart that building this memorial is simply the right thing to do.”

Mr. Ritman said the memorial will be set up to both look back on those who were killed but also look forward and serve as a teaching tool, particularly for children, about what happened and what the families and the country went through. He said it would make sure people would never forget the lessons and stories of Sept. 11, and urged people to not only help with the funding but in the volunteer effort to make this memorial happen.

This is a project that not only has the support of elected leaders and government boards, but of those who felt the horror of the attacks most directly. Mr. Ritman has said there is full support from the families of the local victims, and several were on hand for the breakfast. One of them, Sally Maloney Duval, whose brother Teddy Maloney was killed in the World Trade Center, delivered an emotional address, discussing the still raw emotion her family feels even after 13 years as she said that her niece last saw her father when she was 14 months old and is now 14 years old.

The site of the World Trade Center has been turned into a memorial but Ms. Duval said that in her two visits there she hasn’t been able to find comfort there. While she said it was a “powerful and moving experience” to be there she added there were also “disturbing elements that left a bitter taste in my mouth,” so much so that she wasn’t sure if she would ever go back. After fighting the crowds and paying high prices to go to New York City, Ms. Duval said she saw a family gawking at her as though she were part of a show and then, just two weeks ago, she returned and saw a person having to be removed from the memorial for making a public scene of protest.

“Neither of these were the quiet, reflective moments I had hoped for when looking for a way to connect with my brother,” Ms. Duval said. “I have nothing against the memorial in New York. It’s a tourist stop in the city and the majority of the world will enjoy visiting it. But the families of the victims are not in that majority. The families of those lost don’t have the luxury of gravesides. We need this memorial in town to help provide a place to connect with those we lost… The Greenwich memorial will not only connect us to our loved ones, it will connect the future generations to the past.”

Greenwich officials said they appreciated everyone’s efforts in making sure that there was always a remembrance in town. In addition to the steel at the Glenville Fire House, there is a memorial on Great Captain’s Island from the family of Ben Fisher but there are accessibility concerns there and this memorial is meant to be for everyone in town as well as those just passing through.

“Certainly this is something we have committed to never forget,” Mr. Tesei said. “There is no better way to memorialize each of the lives than to establish such a fitting memorial here in our town in one of the most beautiful settings. Cos Cob Park is truly going to be that. It’s a beautiful, tranquil setting for which we can all share in the reflection on and remembrance of these lives that were lost.”

Mr. Tesei thanked everyone who has been a part of putting the memorial together, in both creating the design and raising the resources in pushing it through the town approval process.

“I think this is truly emblematic of Greenwich,” Mr. Tesei said. “Greenwich is a community that comes together in difficult times and this effort is emblematic of our spirit and our unity of purpose.”

Mr. Blumenthal also spoke at the event, noting how everyone’s lives were changed by Sept. 11, 2001, but that the impact on Greenwich was especially hard given how many lives were lost in the community. Like Mr. Tesei, he thanked everyone involved for what they were doing and praised the “courage and commitment” of the families and said he was proud to be a supporter of such an inspiring project.

“As we approach another anniversary of that unspeakable tragedy the rest of America may not feel as connected this time as we are and so what you are doing, and the reason I am here to thank you, is to forever remind Connecticut and America of what we lost, how we heal and the courage and strength of that moment, particularly from the families that suffered the most directly,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “We are a community brought together then by tragedy and have continued to be brought together and have continued to heal.

The invocation at the breakfast was delivered by the Rev. Jim Lemler of Christ Church in Greenwich, who offered his hopes for the memorial.

“May it be a perpetual sign and witness to our love and respect for all who died,” Mr. Lemler said. “May it be a continuing monument to and a mirror of our deeply held values of justice and peace and compassion. And may it be a consistent reminder and prism of the light that shines on in the human heart even in the face of the darkness of hatred itself.”

More information, and a chance to volunteer and donate, is available online at Sept11memorialgreenwich.org.

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