Patriotic music, inspirational messages, the flag flown at half mast and a moment of silence were all part of a stirring 9/11 Memorial Tribute help in Gilbert Wednesday morning.
Citizens of the Town of Gilbert and surrounding communities joined with police and fire personnel and elected officials at the permanent 9-/Memorial site at Gilbert’s Town Hall. There, an 8-foot piece of an actual steel beam from one of the World Trade Center Towersis surrounded by four granite slabs bearing the names of the 2,977 people who lost their livesas a result of the terrorist attackson September 11, 2001.
The then-Gilbert Fire Chief, Collin DeWitt, explained how the monument came to be.
“It was one of those tweaky kind of deals,” he said, noting that he just happened to come across an article saying that, with the court cases completed, the New Jersey Port Authority had some artifacts available for release to communities who would be interested in building memorials.
After writing letters to the Port Authority and obtaining buy-in from the community, DeWitt and Jim Jobusch, then the assistant fire chief, drove to New York in early 2011 to retrieve the beam.
Jobusch explained, “I would tell people I was going to go pick up a steel beam, but it turned into so much more than that.” He said, even 10 years after the attacks, “You could still feel the emotion and the changes in New York City area.”
When they saw the warehouse full of artifacts, “We just stood there in awe. It was a pretty incredible experience,” Jobusch said.
At this year’s memorial service, one of his first official appearances and the new Fire Chief, Jobusch said of the monument, “It is truly a community piece, where people can walk up to it, touch it, where they can sit on one of the benches and reflect and think about the events of that day.”He said not only is the site a memorial and a place for reflection and education, “It is also a symbol of the strength and resolve of our great country.”
Against that backdrop, the Wednesday program included a presentation of colors by a joint Police and Fire Honor Guard. Patriotic music was provided by Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department and the joint Arizona State Fire Department Pipe and Drum bands.
Town of Gilbert Mayor John Lewis welcomed those in attendance, noting that when they dedicated the monument in 2011, the town also placed a new street sign in front of the building, renaming it “American Heroes Way.”
Jobusch reminded those in attendance that there are still many family members who are struggling in the aftermath of the tragedy and, “now, 12 years later, there are still many who are suffering the effects of exposure to chemicals in the debris.” He suggested that these people be remembered and prayed for.
Providing the closing remarks was Victor Peterson, of the Gilbert Town Council. He acknowledged that many different lessons and even opposing views came out of the 9/11 tragedy, then added, “This morning I want to focus on what we all share. As citizens of the United States of America, we have a heritage of freedom and patriotism.”
“We have a foundation of the idea that we are all peers and that by nature one person has no right to rule another,” he continued.
Peterson said it was this foundation that brought the nation together after 9/11.
“When our freedom was threatened, we forgot about what made us different and remembered that we are brothers and sisters in the same family of man. I hope that we truly never forget this lesson,” he said.