Destiny Sargeant said she will never forget the importance of Sept. 11 after walking through the rubble at ground zero as fires smoldered on.
Sargeant was part of the five-member Critical Incident Stress Management Team from Alaska that went to counsel survivors in New York City, just days after the terrorist attack. The team purchased one of the nearly 400 engraved bricks that were added to the existing Sept. 11 memorial at Riverside Rotary Park this week. A memorial service and dedication ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. today at the park.
"My experience was that I got to see not just the worst of humanity, but I also got to see the very best that people have to offer," Sargeant said. "I found that it was really inspirational to serve there. It helped me prioritize my life."
Sargeant also purchased a brick for herself.
"I bought a brick because serving at ground zero was one of the most meaningful experiences in my life," she said.
Brent Fischer and his wife, Debbie, came up with the concept and design of the Juneau memorial because they wanted to do something for the community, he said. Fischer finished laying the roughly 1,800 bricks for the plaza on Friday. The original memorial was dedicated Sept. 11, 2002.
"It was a terrible tragedy, but let's not just remember what the tragedy was but let's remember what it did for our country in uniting us," he said. "We shouldn't forget those who perished that day and the people who continue to fight for our freedom today."
The Glacier Valley Rotary Club has finished selling engraved bricks for now, but they plan to sell more in a year or so, Fischer said. He said the memorial is a place where people can discuss the events of Sept. 11, 2001, with their children for years to come.
"It's what we call a broken pentagon," Fischer said. "Two sides are missing to represent the World Trade Center buildings. Each side is 4 feet in length to represent the four aircraft downed. It's made out of Pennsylvania marble and concrete to represent the strength of our heroes. The flag, for unity of our nation. Forget Me Nots, as part of our promise never to forget. And then the point of the pentagon is pointing towards true north, a symbol of all Alaska."
Lorene Palmer bought a brick to honor her grandfather, who served during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
"It's a great place for people to go and contemplate what is important in life and a place to go to honor people who have served in the military or have meant something to us," she said. "They were really tragic events in our country, and it's a time to take stock in what's important and the people who are important to us."
Fischer said three benches and three Service Berry trees will be added to the memorial in the near future. He said he is pleased to complete the latest addition to the memorial.
"It's a beautiful addition to the park," he said. "Hundreds of people will see it each day."
Sargeant said she is grateful for a permanent memorial in Juneau.
"I'm tremendously proud to have served at ground zero, and I'm tremendously proud of Rotary and being able to contribute bricks," she said.
"Even up here in Alaska, so far from New York and Pennsylvania, we all care. We're all touched by this and will not forget that day," Fischer said.
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.