Princeton’s Proposed 9/11 Memorial Will Need State Approval

By Greta Cuyler Princeton Patch

Princeton Deputy Fire Chief Roy James has been working on plans to build a 9/11 memorial in town, but red tape seems to be postponing the project.

And now it looks like James’ ideal location, along tree lined pathway by Monument Hall on Route 206, will require state approval before the project can proceed.

The proposed monument falls within the state right of way and is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

The red tape is frustrating for James, but he is not about to give up.

“If we have to take this up to Gov. Christie himself, I will,” James said.

Princeton’s Historical Preservation Commission recently reviewed the project and praised James and his partners on how much thought and care has gone into the proposal for the memorial.

But they also cautioned him to include in fundraising monies for future upkeep of the memorial and suggested that he speak to members of the Princeton Battlefield Society and others who worked hard to preserve and upgrade the Princeton Battlefield Monument that sits only yards from where the monument is proposed.

James is expected to be back in front of Princeton Council tonight, Monday. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at 400 Witherspoon Street.

James’ quest to build a 9/11 began more than three years ago. Last year, he was instrumental in procuring a piece of mangled steel that was salvaged from the twin towers.

The design for the memorial is to have the beam placed upright and flanked by three or four limestone pillars on each side. It was designed by KSS Architects in Princeton with sculptor Pietro del Fabro. There will be one additional pillar separate from the rest that will be built by the citizens of Princeton.

Bluestone pavers at the memorial site would literally “disrupt” the pathway, similar to how 9/11 disrupted our lives, James said.

The plans call for a history of what happened on 9/11, plus nine benches, each inscribed with the names of a victim from Princeton who died that day.

James hopes that in addition to providing a space for people to mourn, the memorial will reinvigorate the town with the kind of communal strength that was present in the wake of the tragedy. He recalls being moved in the first days after 9/11 by groups of people stopping fire trucks in the middle of Nassau Street to thank firefighters for their service.

“If I can get this memorial built, then maybe it will change someone’s day and maybe they’ll perform some act of kindness somewhere,” James said. “And, more importantly, the people of Princeton that may have lost someone and know someone that died that day can go and finally mourn and have a place to go and make peace with themselves.”

“Time is passing way too quickly, and people are forgetting,” he said. “I want to get it up before people really forget what the true meaning of 9/11 is—the American public coming together as one, not knowing one from another and helping everyone out.”

The project is estimated to cost between $75,000 and $100,000. James said he doesn’t feel comfortable fundraising until the plan is approved and says he has lost some offers of help because the process has taken so long.

Princeton officials have told James that the cross symbol carved out of the beam could be a touchy legal subject because the memorial would be placed on public land.

“It’s a representation of a death, or many deaths,” James said, adding that many first responders carved symbols in the wreckage to memorialize fallen colleagues, which were then presented to the family members of the deceased. James said the cross is not an endorsement of religion, but a symbol of strength and renewal amidst tragedy.

“The beam is part of this building—it fell, lots of people died, and now you have someone emotionally at their wit’s end. So the story unfolds further from just a building falling and people dying; you’re actually bringing in someone’s emotion and heartache into the whole picture.”

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