The 9/11 Memorial: A Journey

There comes a moment when you need to offer your appreciation and support, and then gracefully step aside. Some Council members understand this. Some do not.

“We are blessed to receive this,” said Town Manager Collin DeWitt at the 4/7/2011 Council meeting. He advised the Council that a list of potential committee members had been created to assist in placement of the Memorial and in funding. He stated that his desire was to see the 9/11 Memorial permanently placed by 9/11/2011.

That was his goal before some members of the Council put the process through a meat grinder. It’s still his goal.

This twisted, rusted beam fell from one of the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. It is forever a reminder of an evil, unprovoked attack on Americans that resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent lives. It is also a tribute to those who tried desperately to save them. Some of those men and women, mostly public safety personnel, died trying.

Something happened to Collin’s simple goal at the 4/7 Council meeting that is difficult to explain. You had to have been there for this 25-minute verbal wrestling to understand what I mean.

Mayor John Lewis and Council Member Ben Cooper thanked Town Manager Collin DeWitt and Fire Chief Jim Jobusch for all they did to obtain this artifact.

John Sentz thought the list should be cut to only 1 person from each association represented on the committee. He expressed his disappointment at being brought in late as Council liaison, “We were brought in after the horse left the barn. So that’s a concern.”

Mayor Lewis stated that de-inviting members of the committee would not be advisable.

After much discussion about all the various entities who should be involved, and the milestones to be reported to the Council, Les Presmyk said, "Only two milestones need Council approval: the design, and the location."

As the discussion dragged on and more and more “direction” to Manager DeWitt was provided, Mayor Lewis cautioned the Council that it was important to not micromanage the process, and he quoted Sam Houston, “Govern wisely but as little as possible.” He suggested that the Council let Manager DeWitt “run with it…the result will be spectacular.”

Council Member Cooper encouraged Manager DeWitt, “I say keep rolling, do it as fast as you can…involve as many as you can…don’t look back…Keep it on schedule.”

Linda Abbott spoke the longest, wanting to change the make-up of Collin’s committee, establish a steering committee with 2 people each representing various community groups, and create a 501c3. She cited her experience in bringing to fruition the design, placement, fund-raising, etc., in the really large public safety monument across the street.

She stated that the public safety monument was a community effort, not a public safety effort, and this should be the same. It should be community driven, not staff driven. She stated, “I’m sure that Collin would agree with me on that.”

After this meeting, I emailed Manager DeWitt, asking some very specific questions about his part in obtaining this artifact, and this is what he wrote. (He would be mortified to read this, because he is one of the most self-effacing, respectful people you will ever meet.)

Let me try to address your questions.
I did initiate the quest for the artifact which was given by the New York Port Authority without cost to the Town. I paid for all of the costs related to the travel. The explanation for its retrieval is as personal as it is traditional. A Line of Duty Death is vigiled constantly by fellow public safety personnel until interred. These artifacts were kept in close quarters under the guard and care of the Port Authority in Hangar 17 at JFK Airport until the court cases were completed and they could be released for this purpose. You may remember that some of the Steel was used to construct a destroyer. We witnessed one fire department from Elisabeth, New York in their Class A dress uniform, assemble next to the truck that was to carry their artifact and hold attention and salute as it was laid on the bed. After which they covered it in an American Flag and with lights and a police escort, left the hangar for the busy streets of New York City. We have treated these artifacts as if they were the remains of our own and with the same respect. I was excited to go and retrieve our beam and would not have considered it any other way. We did stop to rest for a few hours at night, but we always placed the trailer close to us in a secure place.
I believe that I requested the artifact about 3 years ago when I learned that there might be an opportunity to have it here in Gilbert. Chief Jobusch and I drove 87 hours to get the beam but it seemed shorter. I am extremely thankful that I was able to do this and now look forward to the next step; building the memorial pedestal. Our goal is to complete it by the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 tragedy. That is exactly 5 months from today. There is a great group of citizens and Town staff that are working to raise the money (no Town funds will be used for the project) to build the pedestal that will hold the beam. Watch for opportunities to contribute. We will honor those who have fallen by remembering.
Thanks for your interest.

Collin DeWitt
Town Manager “

For more information:

If you would like to donate, please make your check payable to 911 memorial Fund.
Mail the check to the following address:
Gilbert Police Department
Attn: Lacey Cox
75 E Civic Center Drive
Gilbert, AZ 85296.
Please provide a return address. A receipt will be mailed to your return address.