MEDINA — More than 300 people, including elected officials, first responders and residents, attended the dedication ceremony Saturday for the Medina 9/11 Memorial at Fire Station 1.
The memorial — featuring a 9-foot-long, 2-ton steel beam from the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attack — was open to the public for the first time after the ceremony. Two steel structures, representing the World Trade Center’s twin towers, also are part of the memorial.
In addition, the memorial includes a granite monument honoring United Airlines Flight 93, which flew over Medina County after it was hijacked by terrorists on 9/11. The crew and passengers died after forcing a crash landing in Pennsylvania before terrorists could fly the plane into its planned target, believed to be the White House.
“How fitting for Medina County to now have a memorial that highlights United Airlines Flight 93 and serves as a tribute to all those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, and that also honors first responders, search-and-rescue and our military,” Wadsworth Mayor Robin Laubaugh told the audience.
Before the ceremony, the audience was festive, but quieted when the first of five bells rang outside the firehouse. Four rings represented the four targets, which included the Pentagon, on 9/11. The fifth ring was in honor of first responders who saved lives after the terrorist attacks.
The bells ran at precisely 10:03 a.m. — the time that Flight 93 crashed on 9/11.
Bev Ghent-Skyrzynski, district governor of Rotary International, then addressed the audience. She was invited to the ceremony because the Medina Evening Rotary Club led the effort to build the memorial.
Skyrzynski said Americans everywhere must always remember 9/11.
“It was the human spirit that triumphed over the acts of cowardice and terrorism of that fateful day,” Skyrzynski said.
Brunswick Mayor Ron Falconi said the memorial honors the first responders, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice, who saved so many lives that day.
“Let us never forget the act of war that was declared against us,” Falconi said. “But also let us remember the acts of heroism and bravery and the uniting of our country that occurred in the days and weeks that followed.”
Falconi said 9/11 reminded Americans of the fragility of their democracy.
“I know it’s politically incorrect to say, but I’ll say it anyway,” Falconi said. “America is an exceptional nation. It’s easy to forget how special our country really is. We take a lot of our freedoms for granted.”
Laubaugh said the United States was “shaken to its core” on 9/11.
“Through the numbness of what had occurred, our hearts turned to oneness,” Laubaugh said. “We developed a cry, a hope, a sense of patriotism that is difficult to describe.”
Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell praised the Medina County communities that contributed to the effort to create the memorial.
“There are not many places where everybody can come together and work as a team and accomplish something so significant,” Hanwell said.
Hanwell introduced Kelly Low, a Medina Rotary member who was the driving force behind the memorial. Hanwell joked that he doesn’t hand out keys to the city because the city can’t afford them, but he did present Low a city lapel pin.
Former Medina Mayor Jane Leaver and Medina Rotary member Bill Cohen, both of whom died from cancer, also were key players in the memorial’s creation.
Low listed everyone involved in making the memorial a reality.
“I was just kind of like the conductor, conducting the orchestra,” Low said.
She asked everyone to live their lives in love and peace.
“If we approached every single interaction with our fellow man every day with love, a smile and maybe a hug, and the question ‘How can I help this person,’ our world might be a more peaceful place in the future, where we wouldn’t need to make memorials because of things like those that happened on Sept. 11,” Low said.
The final speaker was retired Sgt. Chris Spence, a Green Beret, who was among the first troops deployed to Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks. His horseback unit was portrayed in the movie, “12 Strong.”
Spence said that when his unit was assigned to Afghanistan, he thought it was a routine call, and wasn’t sure what to expect. He and his fellow soldiers learned to ride horses because they were operating in a country where horses were a common form of transportation. Due to the terrain, it was easier getting around on horseback than in motorized vehicles.
Spence was impressed by the positive attention he received in Medina and the new memorial.
“It’s an awe-inspiring tribute to sacrifice and the human spirit,” he said.