By Stacey Rosenfeld Ridgefield Park Patriot
A steel beam from the World Trade Center is the centerpiece of a Ridgefield Park 9/11 memorial monument, which will be unveiled this year on the anniversary of the attacks.
At the annual Fourth of July Fire Department Inspection Ceremony in 2010, Mayor and Fire Commissioner George Fosdick informed the chiefs that steel from the World Trade Center was available, and encouraged them to pursue getting a piece for a Village memorial to those who perished on 9/11. In 2011, Chief Richard LaTour transported a floor beam, believed to be from the middle of one of the Twin Towers, from Staten Island to Ridgefield Park, setting in motion the construction of the Euclid Avenue monument.
LaTour requested that Gerard Garafalow, a 50-year member of the Ridgefield Park Fire Department who also has a background in construction, serve as chairman of the 9/11 memorial committee and oversee the project. The committee is comprised of members from each of the Village’s six fire companies, including former chief Rodney Wagner, Capt. Frank Farina, Tom McGee, Louis Luchetta and former chief John Malool.The committee secured donations of time, materials and services to see the project through to fruition. Architect Fred Rosen provided structural analysis; Engineered Device Corp. provided reinforcing rods and all form work; B.P. Electric provided labor and materials; Electric Distributors Inc. donated materials; D and H Auto Body preserved the bottom of the steel; William Malast Welding provided services; and the Ridgefield Park DPW donated labor.
Additionally, a village Eagle Scout will install pavers around the monument.
The monument will bear a plaque paying tribute to FBI Special Agent and Ridgefield Park volunteer firefighter, Leonard Hatton, who lost his life while saving countless others on September 11, 2001. Hatton, a former Marine, was the only Ridgefield Park resident and FBI agent killed that day.
Michael Zinzi, a 1982 graduate of Ridgefield Park High School who was working for a company with offices at the World Trade Center and died the day of the attacks, will also be honored with a plaque.
Gerard M. Cummiskey, a member of Hose 4 who worked for the Port Authority and was part of the recovery effort on 9/11, died years later on March 12, 2011. His efforts in aiding countless others the day of the tragedy will also be commemorated on the monument. And, Harry F. Graves, a member of Hose 1 who worked for a private fire supply company repairing equipment at the World Trade Center site, will similarly be remembered for his contributions on 9/11. Graves died on Nov. 29, 2010.
Garafalow said that his involvement with the 9/11 memorial “has been a labor of love.”
“I knew all these guys; the loss was a shock to us all. I volunteered my time and energies for community pride, national pride and fire department pride,” he explained.
Fosdick will serve as master of ceremonies for the unveiling ceremony, which will begin at 7:00pm on September 11. Although the program is still being formalized, the tribute promises to be a moving and meaningful one, with families of those honored expected to be in attendance.
The on-going completion of the monument may be viewed weekdays from 8:00am to 3:00pm at Euclid Avenue and Center Street near the fire bell.