Maplewood Fire Department members began clearing the area in front of the Hilton Branch of the Maplewood Library on Wednesday, August 10, in preparation for renovating the September 11, 2001 memorial located there.
“Off duty members will be working there throughout the month to finish the updated memorial prior to September 11,” wrote Maplewood Fire Chief Michael Dingelstedt in an email.
This year will mark the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the nation’s capital, which also sent a plane and its passengers crashing into a field in rural Pennsylvania.
Regarding the redesign of the memorial, Township Administrator Joseph Manning explained, “The Township Committee approved a request from the Firefighters’ Mutual Benevolent Association [FMBA] to redesign the monument with a fresh look. It was felt that the current design was hidden and people were not aware that it was even there.”
“Last year, FMBA President Gregg Giordano approached me and told me that the FMBA was interested in maintaining and possibly upgrading the 9-11 memorial at the Hilton Branch Library,” Chief Dingelstedt told Village Green.
“The consensus of the firefighters was that the memorial needed refreshing to adequately honor those who died on September 11, 2001.” Dingelstedt added that, even those who were aware of the memorial were not necessarily “aware that the steel is from the World Trade Center.”
Dingelstedt explained that the fire department duty crew working each year on September 11 conducts a memorial service amongst themselves at the site, “reflecting on the sacrifices made by both emergency services personnel and civilians on that date in 2001.”
“I brought this request to the Public Safety Committee and they readily agreed to this request, with the contingency that any significant design changes be submitted to the Committee for approval,” said Dingelstedt. “Firefighters came up with an initial design that includes decorative pavers with a flag background and inscription ‘We Shall Never Forget – 9/11,’ two granite towers representing the World Trade Center towers as well as the steel…. The design was submitted to and approved by the Public Safety Committee.”
The design was perfected by local architect Mark Carelli who donated his services, providing a 3-D rendering of the project as well as a layout plan for the site. The FMBA is paying for the cost of materials and providing labor.
The World Trade Center steel was originally acquired for the Township by local resident Megan Kashtan who was a Columbia High School senior (Class of ’10) at the time. Kashtan had read an article in The New York Times about how the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was making pieces of twin tower steel available for memorials to towns that had lost residents in the terrorist attack.
Maplewood lost two residents: Douglas MacMillan Cherry, 38, and Kirsten L. Christophe, 39. Both worked for Aon Corp. on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. (There is a plaque memorializing their loss at the Maplewood Train Station, which reads in part: “We shall never forget our friends and neighbors who rode the rails with us that morning, but did not return with us that night.”)
Hundreds of local residents were also directly impacted, such as Rosetta Weiser who was evacuated from the 61st floor of the north tower. Maplewood police and fire personnel and Mayor Vic DeLuca spent the day meeting residents at the Maplewood train station, where equipment was provided to wash dust and soot from the many residents caught in aftermath of the towers’ collapse.
“It was incredible,” said DeLuca in a 2011 interview. “It was a crowd of people. The embraces and the crying.”
Below are copies of the new design and site plan. The plantings are for illustrative purposes and will be different when the project is complete, reported Chief Dingelstedt.