Stow law director Brian Reali, Major in Army Judge Advocate General's Corps Reserves, is on his third deployment to Afghanistan. Before his current tour of duty, in Kabul, Major Reali applied for and obtained a small piece of the World Trade Center tower from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. It arrived in Stow shortly before the attack's tenth anniversary last year.
A permanent memorial monument and garden has been designed and constructed in front of Stow's municipal building. A formal ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony will be announced once the plaque is finished and other details are in place. But for now, the I-beam section with black granite base, Pennsylvania Blue Flagstone walkway and landscaping are all there in place for visitors to see and reflect on.
Amber E. Kerek, Stow deputy law director, wasn't sure if it was related to Reali's job or how Reali first got word of the fact the port authority was offering to give portions of beams to communities who applied.
"Brian is very patriotic, as you might imagine for somebody who's in the Army JAG Reserves, and it was something that he jumped in and said, 'We should get this.' They were offering it for free, so he wanted to claim a piece of that history," she said. "I think it's something that they wanted to remember across the nation and he definitely jumped at that and put his name in, and we actually got selected and they sent it to us. It happened very quickly and Brian was the one spearheading it. He was the one who filled out the paperwork and they sent it to him right here. Then we decided, 'What can we do to honor this piece of history here?' so they drew up these plans."
Kerek added, "Everybody has a connection to it. It's my generation's, especially, JFK moment. We all remember, and we all know what we were doing that day, that time, everything. Everybody definitely has a connection to it. It was Brian's thing, he just kind of started and once it set into motion, then it became the other department's job to implement it."
Sara Drew, Stow Mayor, said to her knowledge that Stow was the only city in Summit County to receive a piece of the twin towers. "That's not 100 percent guaranteed, because I've never looked into it, but I've never seen anything, or heard of any other cities getting it."*
Drew explained the memorial itself will be done by Sept. 11, but the plaque recognizing the donors and official unveiling would be sometime after 9/11. "We felt the important part is the memorial, obviously, so we wanted to get that up, finished, and ready to go. Then, I'm guessing the end of September, the beginning of October, we'll have the ribbon cutting, the official unveiling. That will give us time to have all our major donors that are being recognized put on a plaque and have that installed," Drew said.
Drew said there has also been much public support for this project. "We certainly need more donations, not only to finish the construction, but the ongoing maintenance. Stow will have a fund set up, so we are encouraging people to continue donating, even as the construction is on-going and afterwards. However, with that said, the community has been more than generous," she added.
As to Reali's incentive to get the project rolling, Drew explained, "Last year, the former mayor, myself and Brian, along with people from the school and some community groups, had planned a ten year remembrance and ceremony of the lives that have been involved and a remembering of the September 11 attacks. Brian had applied for the I-beam prior to that and it got here, literally, like three days, or two days before our memorial service last year. Part of the application and part of getting it was, we had to promise the port authority that we would do something appropriate and respectful with it and that's where we came up with this."
Former Stow service director Dano Koehler also did not know of any other cities in Summit County, who obtained a beam, "You had to be alert to this. I mean, Brian Reali had heard of its availability. You had to put in an application for it, and I think for a lot of communities it would have been under the radar. "
Koehler said, "We had, I think, three different designs, each one trying to have some...you know, there's an interpretive side to all these things. One was to try to show the twin towers. It represents Pennsylvania and the Pentagon. Those are the three elements...the field in Pennsylvania. They tried to do that in a couple of different designs. They finally settled on one – the field stones represent Pa."
As to being on the committee, Koehler said, "It was kind of neat because we were just trying to figure out how to incorporate this. It's a steel beam. We had a reasonable amount of discussion on just trying to figure out how we were going to mount that beam to play a role there and at the same time kind of fit it with the whole setting because we decided that we wanted a memorial that really represented all of the sites that were attacked, not just the one. Which is something, I suppose, somebody could have done. We didn't feel it was right, though, because all that occurred on the same day."
"It was a real honor to be involved with the project because Brian was the one that really took the steps to get the metal from the towers. Obviously, he serves, and serves a lot, and we were looking for something that would show Stow not only cares about this, but it is something that is in their hearts, not only now, but in the future," Koehler added.
Architect and memorial designer Charles Frederick of Kent said by telephone, "The Pennsylvania Blue Flagstone represents the site near Shanksville [in Somerset County]. The significance of the polished granite is the Pentagon so it's a pentagon shape. What we're trying to do is make sure that all three sites had some sort of representation. It's black granite done up in Vermont."
Asked if the crushed rock in the square frames around the two flag poles represent the twin towers, Frederick said, "Right, those are a very small representation of the two towers. But the main piece is the I-beam which will be installed tomorrow. Everything else is an abstraction of the three events and the signature piece is the small I-beam from one of the towers."
Frederick went on to explain, "The green Gem Boxwood are an evergreen plant customarily used in memorial design because it never loses its leaves, and it's always green and has everlasting life. The Oak Leaf Hydrangea is a native shrub that has a nice crimson red Fall color which will start to turn at this time. Since the events marked a new Fall, during 2001 and how the country changed this helps represent how Fall changes. It's a very striking color. It's a very open structure, so that in the winter you could look into the memorial pretty well. We didn't use any trees because we wanted it to have good sight lines going all the way in. Then, the placement of all the plant material reinforces some of the geometries of that – the circle and the two entry sequences going in."
Amber Gardens, LLC owner Michael Tersigni shared the sentiments of all the others associated with the project, "It's hard to realize the whole impact of it. We are proud to be on the project. The guys that are working on the job are taking a sense of responsibility for that over there, so that felt good too. They felt a sense of pride working on it. It's been a real privilege just to do it. Our employees are happy to be doing it and proud of being able to do it. And then again, it makes you think of what really happened, too, which is sad and remorseful. You sit back a little bit and you go 'You really shouldn't be doing a memorial for something like this.' But then, you should, too."
Tersigni's foreman, Joe Weaver said, "It's nice to be involved in something that people can realize, 'Look how far away we are,' and still they're trying to remember and appreciate. Everyone's still looking and thinking and remembering."
Kerek said, "I think everybody, regardless of whether you're in New York or Ohio, somehow everyone has some kind of emotional attachment, or knows a friend, a family member or someone that was there on that day."
Koehler said, "It was quite an opportunity just to be a part of that whole process and to be able to have input to it. And to be involved with the design process and so forth. It was a good opportunity, and I appreciate the mayor and the city allowing me to get involved with that.
Drew said, "I am hopeful that the residents of Stow, in reference to the monument, will recognize and remember the sacrifices of that day and the subsequent years. But also remember that it was really a unifying event for our country and our community. I hope that future generations will remember how we came together as a community and not just, solely, focus on the sacrifices."
Stow city hall is currently accepting tax-deductible donations of any amount. Make the check payable to: City of Stow – 9/11 Memorial Garden Fund and send to: Stow City Hall, 3760 Darrow Road, Stow Ohio 44224. The Stow 9/11 Memorial Garden Committee may be contacted at (330) 689-2800. For details visit: www.stow.oh.us.
*(Editor's note: As of 09/11/2012, Streetsboro in Portage County is the only other community in the area reported to have a section.)