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Vietnam memorial unveiled in city

| Sunday, May 26, 2002, 12:00 p.m.

Hundreds of spectators crowded the courtyard of the old Allegheny County Jail on Saturday to witness the unveiling of a new Vietnam War memorial with the names of 412 county residents killed in the war etched in black granite.

Veterans and family members read the roll call of the fallen during an elaborate two-hour ceremony that began with the low flyover of a C-130 transport plane during the national anthem and ended with a 21-gun salute that reverberated sharply inside the jail's high brick and stone walls.

The memorial is the second major one in Pittsburgh dedicated to veterans of the 10-year conflict in southeast Asia. The other, on the North Shore, features statues of soldiers returning to their loved ones beneath a stylized lotus blossom canopy.

James Cvetic, the Vietnam veteran who conceived the new structure and oversaw its construction, said people wanted to be able to see and touch the names of the soldiers.

"This is a memorial, not a monument. This is like a grotto," said Cvetic, 53, of Monroeville.

The curious black granite and steel structure is a hodgepodge of symbolic meanings. Behind the 13-foot-long tablet listing the fallen soldiers' names stands a 13-foot tall triangle of steel girders, representing the city's three rivers, bordered by U.S. and POW/MIA flags. The triangle frames another large, black granite tablet, upon which is etched a rose and the legend "4/00/and/1/2", written from top to bottom.

The double zeros resemble the symbol for infinity, Cvetic said, while the one above the two means every death was "one too" many.

Holding the tablet to its triangular frame is a bracket in the shape of a peace sign, a symbol commonly worn on U.S. soldiers' helmets in Vietnam, Cvetic explained.

Lorrie Conti Zanni, wearing a pale gold dress to match her Gold Star Wife military cap, stood silently during the ceremony as her daughter Toni read the name of a father who never lived to see her born — Anthony Noah Conti, killed in 1968.

"It's a wonderful thing for us to have Downtown for people who can't get to Washington," Zanni, 52, of Mt. Washington, said later.

"They can come and touch the name. That's what I like about it."

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