WTC Memorial Dedication September 11 at Freedom Grove
A public dedication of a new World Trade Center Memorial in Urbana will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, September 11 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The memorial, which features a 12-foot support beam from one of the WTC towers, is the newest addition to Freedom Grove, a six-acre park on Urbana’s south side, at the intersection of U.S. 68 and State Route 55 by the Champaign County Community Center. The park has been developed by the Urbana Rotary Club with community support to honor and remember those who have and are defending American freedoms.
“American patriotism is strong and alive in Champaign County and Urbana,” said Terry Howell, who serves as co-chairman with Don Bauer of the Urbana Rotary Club’s Freedom Grove Committee, which coordinates the project. He explained that the new memorial has gained an outpouring of support in the form of donated money, materials, labor and expertise from businesses, organizations and individuals.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by community support and business support … in the spirit of honor and remembrance of those who perished on 9/11 and those who continue to fight the War on Terror,” says Nick Selvaggio, a member of the committee. He led the club’s efforts to obtain a World Trade Center artifact for the memorial.
“I always knew our community would rally around and appreciate the significance of receiving an artifact, but it is still amazing to see what people are willing to do.”
Community support began back in April when Fred Maine of Maine’s Towing and Recovery Service volunteered to transport the beam from New York City and in a procession through Champaign County, allowing thousands of local residents to see it for the first time.
Champaign County artist Mike Major, who has created sculptures for public and private collections across the country, designed the memorial. Many others have come forward to donate or discount services and materials, from excavating the grounds, to fabricating a base for the steel beam and steel stars for the memorial, to pouring concrete. “All of this support has enabled us to create the memorial at a fraction of the cost,” Howell said.
Terry Rittenhouse, a member of the Freedom Grove Committee, said that the Rotary Club initiated the project in partnership with Champaign County, which leases the land for Freedom Grove. “But this is not our monument,” he added. “This is everyone’s monument, and we are hoping to see folks from all over come for the dedication and to visit any time.”
He added, “The monument itself is a symbol of not only our past but our future, our future hopes and dreams—and to remind us to be vigilant so this might never happen again. Hope is rising. We can feel it in our community and in our nation.”
The Memorial Design
Major said, “I’ve seen an irresistible urge in the community to contribute to this project. It makes the monument mean so much more … the American spirit runs so deep.”
The focal point of the memorial, the steel beam, stands straight up at the center of a circular concrete base. It is handicap-accessible by way of a walkway that allows visitors to get a close-up view and touch the beam if they wish.
Three concentric rings of mounded earth, encircling the monument, serve as ripples. Major explained that they symbolize the after effects of the terrorist acts. “The symbolism cuts both ways. The terrorism was very shocking and painful. But there has been a positive turn-around. We have reinforced our values, our sense of humanity and our love of freedom.”
With earthmoving equipment, Lee Lavoie of McKeever’s Excavating skillfully formed the earthen ripples. As a Marine reservist and manufacturing foreman on September 11, 2001, he quickly became a part of the literal ripples of the attacks. On September 15, 2001, he was deployed to Kuwait. He served 14 months to establish and maintain a security perimeter at the beginning of the War on Terror.
“I felt a wealth of emotion. I was ready to go. That feeling’s about as fresh today as it was then,” he remembers.
Two stainless steel stars, at the periphery of the circle, are inspired by the American flag and symbolize the light of American ingenuity, humanity and hope, Major said. Thanks to the contributions of an area company, the stars have been coated to maintain their sheen, further symbolizing that “freedom has to be maintained, it has to be polished.”
To allow visitors to visualize the enormity of the World Trade Center, concrete markers have been set 208 feet apart at four corners—with the monument at the center—to define the footprint of one of the WTC towers.
The memorial also will include two bronze plaques, one in memory of Alicia Titus, a Graham High School graduate who was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175, which was flown into the South Tower, and the other commemorating 9/11 and in remembrance of those who perished and honoring those fighting the War on Terror.
The placement of the beam itself has significance. “It is twisted and tortured, but it is not lying down. It has been set straight, reconfirming our belief in American values,” Major said.
Dedication Ceremony to Include Family Members of 9/11 Victims
The public dedication ceremony, at 2 p.m. Sunday, September 11, at Freedom Grove, at the intersection of U.S. 68 and State Route 55 in Urbana, will include family members of two people who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center:
· John and Beverly Titus. Their daughter, Alicia Titus, a Graham High School graduate who grew up in the Urbana and St. Paris area, was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175, which struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
· Barbara Schenck of Beavercreek. Her only brother, Doug Cherry, a husband and father of three, died while at work in the South Tower.
Terry Rittenhouse of the Freedom Grove Committee will serve as master of ceremonies. Also included in the dedication are:
· Former Congressman Dave Hobson of Ohio’s Seventh District
· Artist Mike Major, who will explain the meaning behind his design of the memorial
· Boy Scouts and a color guard from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
· Capt. David Torsell of the Urbana Fire Department, who will represent first responders
· Rev. Tim West of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
· The Guys and Dolls chorus of the Urbana-Champaign County Senior Citizens Center, which will sing patriotic selections
Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs for the dedication.
About Freedom Grove
Freedom Grove was inspired by the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The Urbana Rotary Club approached the Champaign County commissioners with a proposal to lease six acres of vacant county-owned land at the intersection of U.S. 68 and State Route 55 to be developed into a memorial park with private donations.
The commissioners approved the proposal with a resolution on September 11, 2002. The Rotary Club leases the property for $1 a year.
In addition to the new World Trade Center Memorial, Freedom Grove includes 10 monuments in memory of Americans who gave their lives in defense of our country’s freedoms, from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror. It also features:
· A brick bell tower that houses Champaign County’s Bicentennial Bell, cast in August 2003 to commemorate Ohio’s 200th anniversary
· A plaza of engraved bricks that individuals, families and businesses are purchasing to honor and remember loved ones
· A 1.5-mile walkway lined by more than 85 trees
· Five engraved stone benches
How to Support Freedom Grove
Freedom Grove is a work in progress, and the Rotary Club continues to accept donations. Individuals, organizations and businesses can support the project and honor or remember individuals for their military or community services by buying:
· Engraved bricks in a variety of sizes for the Walk of Honor plaza at the entrance of Freedom Grove
· Walking path benches
· Memorial trees
For information on supporting Freedom Grove, call Don Bauer, 937-215-3100, or visit www.freedomgrove.com.