Newton (MA) Residents’ Grassroots Efforts Result in Creation of 9/11 Memorial

Julie M. Cohen

Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.


Sep. 2—It all started with a quick sketch.

Ten years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Newton resident Sande Young was reading about the creation of Acton’s memorial which would incorporate pieces of steel salvaged from the destroyed Twin Towers in New York. She immediately thought, “We need to have this, too,” and made a drawing of her idea for a Newton memorial.

Neither Young, nor two other pivotal contributors to the city’s 9/11 memorial — resident Ginny Gardner and architect Mark Sangiolo — personally knew anyone killed in the attacks, but they were all driven to honor those who were lost that day.

With no previous experience working on such a project like this, Young reached out to people, including Gardner, to begin fundraising and planning for the creation of a space where people could reflect on the tragedy.

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” said Young, who nonetheless pushed forward on the project.

As a private nonprofit, the Newton 9-11 Memorial Committee was able to raise $72,000 for the memorial and its upkeep.

After much debate over the location — including whether to install it next to City Hall — then-Mayor Setti Warren and then-Fire Chief Bruce Proia agreed that the group could build the memorial on the Newton Centre Fire Department Headquarters’ front lawn.

On the 20th anniversary of the attacks which were responsible for the deaths of almost 3,000 people, including Newton residents whose names are inscribed on the granite, mourners again will gather there in remembrance.

“I wanted [the memorial] to tell the full story of the day by looking at it,” recalled Gardner.

For volunteers working on the project, “it was all-consuming, day and night,” said Young.

After telling all the Newton families whose loved ones were killed on 9/11 about the memorial plans, Young said people had a range of reactions, with some finding it too disturbing even 10 years later to be directly involved. Now 20 years later, some of those same families still cannot bear to attend the remembrance ceremony, while others have participated almost every year.

In order to bring the committee’s vision to life, members solicited pro bono design work and held a competition for the winning creation, which former resident Mark Sangiolo won in an almost-unanimous vote.

Although Sangiolo had never designed a memorial before, he knew he wanted the 9/11 design to be “something that’s going to move people emotionally,” he said during a phone interview.

Sangiolo was touched when a Newton firefighter spoke in support of his design over the other entrants.

When his entry was chosen, he said “It was emotional” for him.

After breaking ground on Sept. 11, 2012, his vision became reality soon thereafter with the memorial’s completion.

“It’s a low memorial. … It’s very contemplative,” he said.

The two sculptures that are shaped like “IX” and “XI” (the Roman numerals for “9” and “11”), represent the Twin Towers in New York. The overall design is a pentagon, to represent the Washington, D.C., attack. Finally, a darker strip of granite on the ground represents the flight path of United Airlines Flight 93, the plane that crashed in a Shanksville, Penn., field after passengers fought back against the hijackers.

Sangiolo said he was glad that resident Ellen Meyers donated a piece of steel from the Twin Towers that she received from a New York firefighter, to be integrated into the design.

“It’s a direct connection,” he said.

The granite is inscribed with the timeline of the terrorist attacks, and quotes from politicians and a poet. One pedestal features the quote, “On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks killed nearly 3,000 innocent men, women, and children. The people of Newton, Massachusetts, have established this memorial as a place to remember the neighbors we lost and to honor those who served that day and thereafter.”

The second pedestal lists Newton residents who were killed: Mark Bavis, Paige Farley-Hackel, Nicholas Humber, Aaron Jacobs, Stuart Todd Meltzer, Richard Barry Ross, Rahma Salie, and Amy E. Toyen.

Although Sangiolo said he never heard what any of the victims’ families thought of the memorial, he said, “I hope they like it.”

The Newton 9-11 Memorial Committee and the City of Newton will be holding their annual commemoration at the Newton 9-11 Memorial, 1164 Centre St., on the Newton Centre Fire Department Headquarters’ front lawn on Saturday, Sept. 11, at 6 p.m.

To buy an engraved brick or to donate to support the ongoing maintenance of the memorial you may do so through the website ( or send a tax-deductible check payable to the Newton 9-11 Committee to: Newton 9-11 Memorial Committee, c/o Jan Huffman, Treasurer, 27 Indiana Ter., Newton, MA 02464-1314.


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