On a balmy Sept. 11 evening, thousands gathered at Evergreen Rotary Park to remember the deceased and to watch the unveiling of the Kitsap 9/11 Memorial set high on a hill next to the Washington Narrows waterway on Wednesday.
It was a perfectly clear, blue sky on Sept. 11, 2013, just as it was on the very day terrorists attacked the United States in 2001. It was the kind of day appropriate to dedicate and honor those who perished in four various locations on that September day.
Before presenters worked their way to the lectern set just down the hill from the memorial, Alan Jackson’s “Where Were you When the World Stopped Turning” song resounded across the park from loudspeakers, offering vivid details of the 2001 day.
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin’ against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?
Some cried. Some closed their eyes. Others stood still, listening to the words of the song.
Kenneth King came to the park to remember with fellow vets and community leaders, members and residents.
“It was an attack on our nation and our pride. War isn’t necessarily across the water,” the Vietnam vet said.
King looked several times to the memorial up on the hill prior to the start of the event.
“It’s hard to see bent up pieces of metal. There’s a toll of human life that went with that twisted steel,” he said. “We’re here. Three thousand people are not.”
Corrine Beach, secretary of the Kitsap 9/11 Memorial Committee, introduced speakers to the audience, and thanked the group for “coming out on this beautiful Sept. 11 day.”
It’s been a long road. We’re so thankful for this community that’s gotten us here,” she said.
Audience members listened intently in the sweltering heat to a variety of speakers, including committee members, Stennis Capt. Michael Wettlaufer, the mayor and designer and lead architect Dave Fergus.
Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent announced the official transfer of the steel beams ownership from Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue to the city of Bremerton from the New York/New Jersey Port Authority. That evening, VFW Post No. 239 voted on upkeeping the memorial. Lent called the post “stewards” of the memorial who will take care of the memorial for “eternity” for generations to come to enjoy.
Lent mentioned that
he invited both George W. Bush and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Both were unable to attend, but Giuliani sent a letter to be read at the event.
“I commend the hard work and dedication of all those who helped make this memorial possible,” wrote Giuliani. “I applaud all in attendance today, gathering to pay tribute to those we lost on Sept. 11. We will never forget what happened to us on that fateful day twelve years ago, and this memorial reminds us of what it truly means to be an American.”
Fergus, the last speaker of the event, said he would try to be brief, but didn’t make any promises because he had four years’ worth of feelings pent up. He echoed similar sentiments.
“9/11 is a story of people. It’s a story about those who survived and those who perished,” said Fergus. “Stories of human toll and sacrifice.”
Fergus directly recounted several personal stories of those who were in the towers, at the Pentagon and on Flight 93 on 9/11. He recalled last phone conversations, children who would never see their parents again, faithful friends who stayed behind, and the workers who pushed past those escaping.
Audience members sat quietly, some silently wiping tears away, others with their hands covering their face in disbelief as Fergus spoke of the final moments of helpless Americans across four various locations on September 11, 2001.
The architect also offered detailed perspectives of the memorial, including if a visitor looks at the beams from one angle, it seems as though the metal is curled; from various other angles, the beams look straight, as the buildings did before falling.
“The Kitsap 9/11 Memorial is intended not simply to be viewed, but to be experienced,” he said. “You may touch the steel beams. Through touch, we are connected to each other. And we are connected to everyone who was touched by 9/11. Through touch, we are all connected and we are all united.”
It is unknown where the beams came from, but both twisted metal pieces in the center of the memorial came directly from the World Trade Center site. The memorial is only the third in the nation to receive artifacts directly from Ground Zero, Roy Lusk, 9/11 Memorial chairman said. At his turn, Lusk thanked dozens upon dozens of community members and donors--in time and funding and supplies--who offered their support for the project in any way, shape or form.
King, a member of the VFW post that will take care of the beams, is proud to take part in caring for the memorial.
Looking back at the metal beams, reaching toward the vibrant blue sky, King sat in silence for a second.
“It gets to you. Yeah, it gets to you,” he said. “ It’s a day of reflection. This is what brings us together and that’s what we should do as a nation.”