By Trevor Jones Wicked Local Newton
Newton — For the first time on Wednesday, Newton residents were able to remember September 11 at a permanent memorial to honor the local victims of the attack.
A large crowd gathered in front of the fire department headquarters in Newton Centre Wednesday evening for the commemoration. Just steps from the night’s speakers, the stone memorial became part of the viewing gallery, as onlookers took to the granite seats to share in the remembrance.
“It’s just been great,” said Sande Young, co-chair of the memorial committee. “Everybody here really appreciated it and it’s something that we need to continue to do each year.”
Young’s committee raised approximately $50,000 to build the memorial. She said there were times she wasn’t sure the structure would become a reality, adding that there were no words to describe what it meant to finally hold the ceremony alongside the it [sic].
The memorial, designed by architect Marc Sangiolo, features mirrored granite numerals “IX” and “XI” in a nod to the twin towers of the World Trade Center. A different-colored granite strip cuts through the middle of the memorial floor representing the path of United 93, and benches in the shape of the Pentagon frame the memorial.
The names of eight victims from Newton or with strong Newton ties appear on the memorial. Their names — Mark Bavis, Paige Farley-Hackel, Nicholas Humber, Aaron Jacobs, Stuart Meltzer, Richard Ross, Rahma Salie and Amy Toyen – were read aloud during the ceremony.
Afkham Salie read his sister’s name. Rhama [sic – Rahma] Salie was seven months pregnant and on board American Airlines Flight 11 with her husband Michael Theodoridis when it crashed into the World Trade Center.
Salie said he still has a hard time describing what the day means to him.
“It’s a very emotional day. It’s a lot of mixed feelings,” said Salie. “It’s a difficult day.”
Still, Salie and his family, who own L’Aroma Café in West Newton, take solace in the support they receive, including a visit from Mayor Setti Warren that morning and the police honor guard continuing their annual tradition of raising a flag outside the restaurant on the anniversary.
“I don’t think the support has diminished in any way,” said Salie. “I’m very happy to be living in Newton because of it.”
Warren told the crowd that the anniversary is a reminder of the nation’s ability to overcome evil and shows how its people’s core values of freedom, justice and democracy make this the greatest nation in the world.
“It’s so important to take a moment and reflect on what 9/11 means not only to Newton and Massachusetts, but the country,” Warren told the TAB. “It’s really a time to remember those who we lost but also to rededicate ourselves to our community and our country.”
Warren said he was proud of the city’s annual tradition of commemorating the anniversary. He also praised the efforts of the committee to make the memorial a reality and said this year’s ceremony had special importance because of it.
“It was an extraordinary amount of effort and work by community members to bring this memorial to this particular space,” said Warren. “I’m really proud of how the citizens, businesses and fire department came together.”
Proponents for the memorial originally sought to have it placed on City Hall grounds, but a temporary moratorium on new memorials on the Commonwealth Avenue parcel precluded such a move. It was eventually decided to place the memorial at the fire department headquarters on Centre Street. A dedication ceremony was held last November.
The city is planning to renovate the headquarters in two years, though the exact plan for the site has not been determined. Bob Rooney, the city’s chief operating officer, said the memorial is designed so it can be dismantled and relocated if needed, but the chances are”pretty small” that would happen because the headquarters is a historic building that likely won’t be razed.
Rev. Mark Caggiano of the First Church in Chestnut Hill, who also serves as the official chaplain of the fire department, told the crowd it was a day to remember those who sacrificed their own lives so others could survive. He cited the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 and the first responders and servicemen and women who ran into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“They were the ones who ran toward danger, who stood up to help, who rose when they were called to serve,” said Caggiano. “This day we do remember what we lost, but we should also remember who they were and what they did — how every day [sic] people can become quite extraordinary heroes.”