The Milton 9/11 memorial took another giant leap forward on its namesake day, when both a groundbreaking and a Patriots Day ceremony took place.
The day opened with a parade, unveiling the centerpiece of the memorial – a 5,000 pound steel beam from Tower Two of the World Trade Center. Citizens from Fife, Milton and Edgewood stood outside their homes and workplaces, waving American flags to show their support for patriots across America and condolences for the tragic events that took place 14 years ago.
“On this day of remembrance, let this not be a day of mourning, but a day of celebration and reflection. Celebrate the freedoms we have as Americans and take a pause today. Remember freedom isn’t free,” Milton Police Chief Tony Hernandez said.
The parade ended at the site of the future memorial, next to the VFW memorial in Milton Community Park, where leaders from three cities spoke about the importance of remembrance, as well as the support of all three cities involved.
“When we think of a patriot, we think of our armed service, our police officers, firefighters, EMTs and our neighbors and our neighbors who help others without asking for recognition or praise,” said citizen Jack Chandler, who worked to get the memorial built for over a decade. “Today we pay tribute to those patriots who love to help others and for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. We are committed to honoring the memory of our fallen brothers and sisters, and we want to make sure that we will never forget.”
The support from the surrounding cities is an example of the tri-cities coming together to support a cause everyone can get behind.
“Yes this is Milton, but what I’m most excited about is this is a perfect example of when our cities work together. We are represented not only by Milton, but by Edgewood and Fife, and that’s the way to do good business,” Milton Mayor Debra Perry said.
Everyone there knew exactly where they were that morning of 9/11, and while the memorial will always stir feelings of loss in those who were alive during that time, its other main function is as an educational tool for future generations.
“This memorial is not here to remind us, because we will never forget. This is about future generations; this is about our youth that will not remember how this country pulled together,” Perry said. “This memorial, I am hoping, will be a destination for people to bring their youth, generations to come, to explain what happened to our country that day.”
Fife Deputy Mayor Pat Hulcey said there were no questions asked when Chandler asked the City of Fife if the artifact could be stored in Fife until it could be placed.
“All seven of us [on city council] were happy to help out with what we could and be a part of this,” Hulcey said. “We are very proud to be a part of this.”
It was also an easy decision for Edgewood Mayor Daryl Eidinger and his team to show support, as he believes that is what America is about.
“This is a time that we need to remember. We need reminders like this artifact that we need to pull together, we need to be available to one another. You and I are neighbors, the three cities, Fife, Milton, Edgewood, we’re all neighbors and we need to look out for one another,” Eidinger said.
The ceremony also honored Mike Airhart, a truck driver from Vashon Island who transported the artifact from coast to coast.
“We’ll always remember the people that died on that fateful day. We’ll always remember,” Airheart said.
After the pictures and speeches were over, the mayors and Chandler broke out the golden shovels to break ground on the future site of the memorial. Chandler hopes the beam itself will be installed in the next couple of months, with the entire memorial aiming to be completed one year from the groundbreaking ceremony, Sept. 11, 2016. If you want a view of the beam early, it will be on display at Fife’s Dacca Park until Oct. 3.