9/11 panels installed at downtown memorial

By Chantal M. Lovell Napa Valley Register

 Artist Gordon Huether, right, watches as workmen secure one of four glass panels into position at the 9/11 Memorial in downtown Napa. The panels include the names of the victims killed in the attacks. J.L. Sousa/Register

Artist Gordon Huether, right, watches as workmen secure one of four glass panels into position at the 9/11 Memorial in downtown Napa. The panels include the names of the victims killed in the attacks. J.L. Sousa/Register

The nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives on September 11th almost 12 years ago are now part of the downtown Napa memorial being constructed in their honor.

On Thursday morning, the four pieces of glass bearing the names of those killed in the terrorist attacks were attached to four beams recovered from the wreckage of New York’s World Trade Center.

“These were just ordinary people who got up and went to work that day,” artist Gordon Huether said as he looked on at the first panel of glass lowered into place.That panel lists the names of all the passengers of the planes used in the attack. The second and third panels bear the names of those who died after the Pentagon and World Trade Center were hit, and the fourth explains the attack and why Napa has a memorial.

As a small crowd watched, a crane cautiously lowered each of the glass panels in place.

The largest panel is 14.5 feet tall.

“It’s pretty precious cargo so we’re trying to do this carefully and slowly,” said Cindy Beckwith, owner and operator of CB Crane Service LLC, which assisted with the project.

Using a suction-cup apparatus, a crew from R & S Glazing Specialties Inc. in American Canyon safely hooked each piece, ranging in weight from about 750 to 1,200 pounds, to the crane and guided them into their places beside the steel beams.

“Gordon’s vision and our vision was to create something that really was going to be lasting and that the people in this community could be proud of,” said Fire Marshal Darren Drake, who first started the memorial project after learning in 2009 that the Port Authority of New York had made steel from the wreckage available to jurisdictions wanting to create 9/11 memorials.

Drake and others who have volunteered their time to bring the project to fruition praised the work of local companies like GD Nielson Construction Inc., Van Windens Landscaping and numerous others for contributing to the project. Huether noted one of the workers from R & S Glazing has a toddler with lymphoma and arranged for a family member to take the boy to his doctor appointment so he could assist with the work Thursday.

“To me, it’s another example of the commitment the community has made to this,” Huether said.

Beckwith said she jumped at the chance to help build the memorial. “They approached me several months ago and I was hoping I could lift the steel but I didn’t quite have the capacity to lift the steel they had,” she said.

“When I got an opportunity to lift the glass, I jumped at it. I just wanted to be part of it. To think that something so far away that impacted the whole world is here in Napa now and I get to have a tiny part in it is pretty special.”

With the glass in place, the major parts of the memorial are complete. Electrical work at the site still needs to be finished along with landscaping and installation of a flagpole. Decomposed granite will be placed at the base of the beams so visitors can get a close look at the names on the panels and stand in between the steel beams to get an idea of the mass of the wreckage.

“That probably more than any of them expresses the force of the tragedy,” Huether said of one of the beams placed at the memorial’s entrance. Unlike the others at the site, this one has a jagged edge bearing witness to the gravity of the attack.

“That’s destruction. That’s from the building collapsing. These other ones are fairly straight and clean,” Huether said.

This weekend, local Boy Scouts will construct a wood fence between the memorial and the adjacent Napa Creek. On Arbor Day, volunteers will plant 30 ginkgo and Japanese maple trees.

Once the electrical work is completed, the panels will be illuminated at night via LED lights hidden from view in the frame surrounding the glass. The beams will also be lighted.

The memorial is expected to be finished at the end of the month and dedicated the morning of September 11.

Huether said it is coming together just as planned, though he admitted no one ever expected Napa would have received enough steel to make up one of the nation’s largest 9/11 memorials.

After the second panel of glass — the one with the names of deceased first responders and those killed in the South Tower — was set into place and the suction cup fittings removed, Huether checked his cell phone. With a stunned expression on his face, he then turned it outward so others could see the screen. It was 9:11 a.m.

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