Wilmington benefit to boost 9/11 Memorial

By Katie Lannan The Lowell Sun

WILMINGTON — The town’s new high school will feature a memorial to the lives lost in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a tribute to be funded in part by memories of the old high school.

The students behind the memorial project are hosting a fundraiser today, selling floorboards from the recently demolished Wilmington High School gym.

“If only boards can talk,” said Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton, who came up with the fundraiser idea. “We were standing there, one day when they were actually taking down the floor, and I thought, imagine the stories this floor can tell.”

This afternoon, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Individual floorboards will be sold for $25 each at a fundraiser at Villanova Hall on Middlesex Avenue. In addition, the planks that spelled out “Wildcats” on the gym floor will be auctioned.

“I’m sure there were people, that when they look at a piece of this floor, remember a championship they participated in or one they lost, or they played basketball in there,” Benton said.

The event will also feature kids’ crafts, food sales and raffles with prizes donated by local businesses.

All proceeds will support the Wilmington High School 9/11 Memorial Committee, which has raised approximately $5,000 of its anticipated $10,000 costs.

“I’ve been actually surprised how quickly things have been coming together, how much support we’ve had, and how people have been coming together to help us out,” said Anthony Vitale, the committee’s president.

The committee formed in 2011, after high school social studies teachers Trace Kassin and Mark Staffier realized the town has no memorial.

The pair approached Benton, who suggested the courtyard of the planned high school as a potential site.

The group of 20 to 30 students meets about once a week, Vitale said.

He joined the committee in its first year after finding out about the effort in Kassin’s class.

“We just wanted to help educate future generations about the effects of 9/11,” Vitale said. “We’ve had a lot of support within the high school and within the community, too.”

The memorial, designed by the student committee, will be made primarily out of granite and incorporate a piece of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center.

Components of it are intended to represent each site where a plane crashed on September 11, 2001, including the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Vitale said.

“It’ll be about six feet tall, with two towers that represent the Twin Towers in the center of a large pentagon, on some grass that will represent the field in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Benton said the fact that the project is student-designed and will be funded through the efforts of students puts it “near and dear to my heart.”

“They designed it, which is really, really special,” Benton said. “And they put a lot of thought into the meaning of 9/11 and how it can connect to Wilmington High School.”

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