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Montgomery Victims Remembered on 9-11 Anniversary

a bench at the memorial / Photo by Stephen E. Mather/Maryland Newsline

A bench at the memorial. (Newsline photo by Stephen E. Mather)

By Stephen E. Mather
Maryland Newsline
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2003; link added Sept. 12, 2003

ROCKVILLE, Md. - The 11 Montgomery County residents killed in the terrorist attacks two years ago were remembered today with the dedication of a memorial that family members hope will keep the memory of their loved ones alive.

"It's a peaceful, tranquil place that people can come to and reflect," said Potomac resident Christine Fisher. Fisher's husband, Gerald, known as "Geep" to his family and friends, died while meeting with Pentagon officials and colleagues on the morning of the attack. 

The memorial in Courthouse Square Park in downtown Rockville features 11 benches, one for each of the victims, around a grassy, tree-lined ellipse. The benches are engraved with the victims’ signatures and quotations selected by the victims' families. 

With the help of her stepdaughter, Fisher picked a quote from author Jack London:  "The proper function of man is to live, not exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them, I shall use my time." 

Fisher said she chose the quote to capture the personality of her husband, who "lived each day to the fullest."  Fisher, 57, was a principal consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.

The simple dedication ceremony took place on a clear, sunny day reminiscent of the day of the attacks in New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa.. Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-8th) and other elected officials spoke to a crowd of several hundred in the small park.
Several hundred turned out for the dedication. / Photo by Stephen E. Mather/Maryland Newsline

Several hundred attended the dedication of the 9-11 memorial. (Newsline photo by Stephen E. Mather)

A moving speech came from memorial selection committee member Julia Caswell Daitch, the sister of American Airlines Flight 77 passenger William E. Caswell. 

“This is one place where people will be able to look at the loss of one individual, rather than the enormity of the entire event,” Daitch said, fighting back tears. “We wanted people to be touched by the randomness” of the violence.

One hundred twenty-five people inside the Pentagon were killed, and another 64 on board, after terrorists took control of Flight 77. In New York more than 2,800 died in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. In Pennsylvania, 44 people died in the United Airlines Flight 93 crash after a struggle between passengers and hijackers.
The U.S. State Department published a fact sheet on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Caswell, 54, a Navy physicist, is remembered with a quote from poet William Wordsworth that begins: "What though the radiance which was once so bright, be now forever taken from my sight." 

“I think it speaks to who he was and our loss," Daitch said. “He was a bright star.” Daitch said her brother rode his bike past the park as a child and went to get his marriage license in the courthouse across the street.

After the ceremony, Duncan walked to each bench and read the quotes selected by family members. He spoke briefly with the families and placed white roses on their benches.

The memorial, which cost the county $100,000, also includes a small, metal pavilion with three columns covering a plaque bearing the names of the victims. A solar lens in the pavilion roof will shine sunlight on the names on the morning of Sept. 11 each year.

The artists who designed the memorial, Susan and Gene Flores of Plainfield, Mass., were selected from more than 50 competitors nationwide. The Floreses worked with the victims’ families and helped them select their quotes. 

Gene Flores said he and his wife wanted something “elegant and subdued” and that the memorial was designed so that it could still function as a park.  He said the pavilion plaque is shuttered with metal covers, like the covers of a book, for people to “open the doors and find out” what the memorial commemorates.     

"Everybody thought it was a very simple and thoughtful proposal," said Public Arts Trust manager Francoise Yohalem, who oversaw the memorial selection committee. 

Yohalem said the family members on the selection committee made it clear they didn't want a monument, but rather a quiet place to remember their loved ones.

A public concert by the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters followed the dedication.

Copyright © 2003 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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