By Chantal M. Lovell Napa Valley Register
It took a few years longer than expected, but 2013 was marked by the completion of a somber memorial honoring the 3,000 lives lost in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
On the 12th anniversary of the event, hundreds of Napa residents and visitors gathered in the parking lot behind Kohl’s and Starbucks to witness the illumination of the memorial’s centerpiece — four steel beams recovered from the World Trade Center wreckage and glass panels bearing the names of each person killed that day.
Since then, the Napa 9/11 Memorial Garden has been visited by a steady stream of people pausing by to pay their respects and reflect on a day that looms large in American history.
This lasting contribution to Napa gives the 9/11 Memorial fourth spot on the Register’s Top 10 stories of 2013.
The five-month construction between April and September was a whirlwind compared to the planning and fundraising phases of the project that preceded it.
The project, led by the volunteer Napa 9/11 Memorial Coalition, began in 2009 when Napa Fire Marshal Darren Drake first learned that steel from the fallen twin towers was available to be used in memorials.
He solicited the help of local artist Gordon Huether, landscape architect Gretchen Stranzl McCann, organizer Jim Asbury and numerous others to get the project that was paid for with donations going.
In the months that followed, with companies and individuals donating services and money along the way, six pieces of WorldTradeCenter steel were hauled by truck across the country, glass panels telling the story of the attacks were prepared, and money was raised.
Although the project got off to a fast start, visible activity all but ceased following the 2011 dedication of the site, leading some to question whether the promised memorial would ever come to be.
By 2013, nearly all of the needed $250,000 was raised, including a hefty city contribution, allowing construction to begin. In April, crews broke ground. In the months that followed, workers cleared the site, laid concrete, built low stone walls, then erected 24-foot-tall steel beams and panels of glass reaching heights of 14 feet. Finally, the prime location next to Napa Creek and Main Street was landscaped.
In September, the chain-link fences surrounding the site came down and the memorial — said to be one of the largest in the West — opened to visitors.