By Kelsey Rupp The News and Observer
APEX — Despite the rain, nearly 400 people crowded into an Apex fire station to celebrate the unveiling of the town’s new Service Memorial on Thursday evening.
The memorial is centered around a 6-inch cube of solid steel beam recovered from the World Trade Center’s South Tower and now resting on a 5-foot granite column.
Inscriptions on the column honor the first responders to the terrorist attacks on American soil, as well as U.S. veterans of wars fought on foreign soil and the men and women who respond first every day to emergencies.
Originally, plans for the memorial focused on 9/11 first responders, but Apex officials decided to broaden the memorial to recognize Apex first responders and veterans as well. The memorial, which sits at the intersection of Salem and Saunders Streets, was paid for with $71,000 in private donations.
TJ Deluca, now an Apex firefighter, was a New York City firefighter and first responder to the attacks on the World Trade Center. He was the keynote speaker to Thursday’s ceremony.
“This memorial means that our community comes first, that as Americans we understand and we do not forget our past,” Deluca said. “Regardless of today, we can build and be better tomorrow.”
Americans are like the steel atop the granite, he said. “It may be damaged and twisted and bent, but it is solid. That solidity is what this memorial means.”
The unveiling ceremony also featured the Apex Police Department Honor Guard and an a capella performance by the 82nd Airborne Chorus, which performed “Amazing Grace,” “American Soldier,” and “God Bless the USA,” among others.
The idea for a memorial had its genesis when Town Manager Bruce Radford and Councilman Gene Schulze visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City last year.
Radford contacted D.H. Griffin, the Greensboro company selected to clean up the World Trade Center rubble, about obtaining a piece of steel for the memorial.
“They asked me to create a design and commitment to implementing the memorial,” said Radford. “Service is important to people here. Whether police, firefighters, EMS, rank-and-file public employees, they are dedicated to service. And the town really rallied around this memorial to them.”
Christina Hilt, president of CLH Designs, volunteered to design the memorial and had a final vision by November. Construction for the memorial began in June and finished last Friday when the granite column and steel cube were installed.
To raise money, the town sold 145 bricks purchased by individuals for $200 each. Names of local first responders and veterans are inscribed on the bricks. The town also received donations from individuals, local non-profits and private businesses.
Mark Haraway, the Apex fire chief, said his firefighters purchased a brick for the memorial and that it was a privilege to contribute.
“This memorial,” Haraway said, “is a very honorable thing for the town and for any individuals who were first responders on September 11, for all those currently serving and all those previously serving. This can exist as a lasting memory to all of that and it can exist for many years to come.”
The memorial includes a brick wall designed as an area for visitors to sit and reflect. The Apex Festival Commission donated an $18,000 classic town clock to stand behind the memorial.
The clock face reads: “Take time to remember.”