Cranberry's Sept. 11 memorial dedicated, now open for all to visit and remember
In the silence of solidarity, the tragedy and bravery of Sept. 11 was remembered Tuesday night as an artifact from the World Trade Center and black granite plaque were unveiled.
“This memorial is dedicated to pay tribute to the 343 first responders of the FDNY, the 27 Port Authority police officers and the 23 NYPD officers who answered the call on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Jeff Berneburg, a Cranberry volunteer firefighter and the chairman of this 9/11 Memorial Project.
A crowd assembled at the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company station house on Route 19 to commemorate the memorial.
“This steel artifact from Ground Zero serves as a stark reminder of the sacrifice that was made by all those who had lost their lives that day,” Berneburg said.
More than 3,000 people died in New York, Washington, DC, and Shanksville in 2001.
Berneburg stood before members of his own company and others from Zelienople, Marshall Township, Peebles, Monroeville and Rochester. When they arrived before the ceremony, they asked Bruce Hezlep, fire company president, where they should stand.
“You'll fall in with us,” Hezlep told them.
That night, his feelings were strong that all area volunteers would stand tall together in honor of their fallen heroes.
Hezlep and Berneburg had driven to NYC's Kennedy Airport in April 2011 to pick up the 832-pound girder from the Ground Zero cleanup. Its transport to its permanent home was marked by a ceremony of welcome. On Tuesday, it rested on two granite pillars representing the Twin Towers beside a plaque that tells the story of that stunning day in words and etched pictures — all of Berneburg's design. The orientation of the memorial is identical to the New York City landscape.
The timeline of events of 9/11, as well as snapshots of the bravery, now are on permanent display close to home.
The day that had begun with the brightest of blue skies ended unimaginably.
“We went to bed as a stunned and wounded nation,” Hezlep said to the audience.
It took a few days to hear the stories about compassion and ultimate sacrifice, gratitude and miracles. But the stories soon flooded the airways, a balm to aching souls.
Those who came to the dedication ceremony had tales of 9/11 all their own.
Betty Malloy, 71, of Cranberry Township, and husband, Leo, 74, had reason to be afraid on that day. With four sons in the military, the incidents held some foreboding.
“I remember it very well,” said Betty, who was helping with the morning grooming for her 90-year-old aunt.
When Mrs. Malloy answered the phone, she heard from a cousin who is a firefighter in Avalon, “'An accidental plane flew into the World Trade Center,' he said. ‘Oh, my God, we're being attacked.'”
One son who was in the Air Force in Omaha was the next to call.
“He asked if we were all right and said we were attacked and didn't know how bad it was going to be. The boys were very worried about us,” she continued.
With six children to feed, Mr. Malloy said, he listened to the news about the planes and headed off to work. The phone rang a lot during the day.
“'Did you hear?' they said,” Mrs. Malloy recalled. “Everyone was nervous.”
Claire Reynolds, daughter of Stephen and Colleen Reynolds of Cranberry, wasn't even born when this national tragedy occurred, but she has a sense of it.
“A plane went into a building, and it caught fire and a lot of people died,” she said, of what she had learned at school last year on the event's 10th anniversary.
A 9-year-old child needn't know more.
This special service, she said, “was to unveil the new plaque thing and have a little parade about 9/11.”
Her dad was taking part in the dedication with Boy Scout Troop 403.
She added, “We took cookies to the fire department and saw the metal,” she said, “but it wasn't engraved yet.”
Then, her eyes grew large, “It's a big piece of steel.”
Pamela Loedding, 40, of Economy Borough, accepted an invitation to attend the dedication from John Kontros, vice president of the fire company. They are colleagues.
“I remember being at work in Rochester, NY,” she said of 9/11.
“We had a team working in New York City on the metro station.”
When word of the first crash hit the office, the staff gathered in front of the conference room television.
“I remember everyone being in the room with fingers crossed and crying,” she said.
Years later, she traveled to NYC.
“At Ground Zero, we walked as close as we dared emotionally.”
The Cranberry memorial is a testimony to all that was good even in the horror.
“This is here for anybody to visit,” said Berneburg, “to view what we provided.
“It's lighted from dusk to dawn.”
A marble bench offers a a place for a little rest for quiet reflection.
Thanks to hundreds of donors who have given a little more than $51,000, this steel beam and the etched black granite are touchable, accessible pieces of history.
“May we never, ever have to dedicate another monument like this again,” Hezlep said in his remarks.
No one in the crowd disagreed.
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or firstname.lastname@example.org.