Memorial plans unveiled WTC victim site will be at new library
by Al Sullivan Reporter senior staff writer
May 24, 2002 | 423 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hoping to have a memorial to the six Secaucus World Trade Center victims ready by the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Town Council unveiled an artist sketch at its May 14 caucus.

The town administrator said the design for the proposed memorial incorporates ideas collected from numerous people in the community.

"We took ideas that have been going around through the community," Iacono said. "Everyone had an idea how we should honor the six families."

After the attack last September, a spontaneous memorial appeared along Paterson Plank Road on the Route 3 bridge.

"The location wasn't our choice," said Mayor Dennis Elwell. "But it is one of the few places in town where people could see the towers during the disaster."

As in other communities that lost people to the disaster, residents of Secaucus set up candles, posters, flowers and photographs. Some personal items from the victims were hung on the fence, such as sports jerseys and yearbook pictures. The makeshift memorial also included personal messages from loved one and even strangers. Within weeks of its appearance, the town installed temporary wooden walls to incorporate these items, but the council had contemplated a more permanent structure.

"Since we were in the process of building a new library right near that spot," Elwell said, "it only seemed fitting that we should build the memorial there."

Iacono said most of the items originally hung weathered badly over the last year, but that the town would gather these things up and create a kind of time capsule that would be sealed within the new monument for the future.

"If someone is interested in looking at these things in the future, they can unseal the capsule," Iacono said.

Site work at the town's new library has required that the town take down the existing memorial, Elwell said.

Similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The memorial was designed by John Capazzi, the architect who designed the library as well as the proposed changes to Buchmuller Park's bandshell.

Part of the design would incorporate a feature similar to that of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington D.C. Three six-foot high slabs of granite would stand on their sides forming a wall.

Etched into one slab would be the New York Skyline as seen before Sept. 11 including the two towers from the World Trade Center. The center slab would display names of the six Secaucus residents who lost their lives in the attack. The third slab would have several written pieces about the disaster as well as quotes from President George W. Bush and Mayor Dennis Elwell.

"An eternal light would burn under the center slab," Iacono said.

These slabs would stand about six feet high so as to still allow people to see the new library from the road. The slabs would stand at one end of an open area with a brick circle before it. A star design would decorate the center of the circle, with a flagpole rising from its center. The artist's sketch also included benches around the perimeter of the circle.

Behind the slabs, the town would also install six flowering trees, one for each victim.

"We want something that would flower each year in the spring," Elwell said.

The location of the permanent memorial would also allow viewers to compare the engraved skyline and - by turning about 45 degrees - the New York Skyline as it is today.

"I think it stun people when they look at that," Iacono said. "It should be an overwhelming experience."

No cost to local taxpayers

Iacono said the memorial, however, would be funded through donations and other means, so as to avoid having taxpayers foot the bill.

"This will be costly, but we don't expect taxpayers to have to fund it," Iacono said. "We may set up a memorial fund drive."

The cost could range from $50,000 to $120,000.

"The granite wall and the detailing is very expensive," Iacono said.

First Ward Councilman Michael Grecco asked if the town could seek funding from the corporate community.

"We could perhaps get some corporate sponsors for the project," Grecco said, saying the town should reach out to various businesses to see if they would give support for the memorial - including the New York investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald, for which four of the six victims were employed.

"But if we have to, we'll take some money out of the billboard funds," Iacono said.

Early in May, the Town Council bonded $1 million towards furnishing for the new library. This bond is to be paid back by revenue generated through a new billboard installed along the New Jersey Turnpike - on land owned by the town. These revenues go through the Friends of the Secaucus Public Library.

Although the project would require approval from the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission - which controls zoning for 90 percent of Secaucus and which approved the library's construction - Iacono said the memorial would not alter the existing library plans significantly.

"The memorial would be located on the far right section near the parking lot," he said. "It would be installed on a grassy area and the library would not lose any parking."

Remembering the WTC victims

The six people from Secaucus who perished in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center will be remembered in a permanent memorial planned for front of the Secaucus Public Library. Although several of these people moved out of town shortly before the attack, Secaucus officials said they would be incorporated in the memorial. These victims are:

Arlene T. Babakitis, a 30-year employee of the Port Authority, who most recently worked in the EZ Pass division. She was 47 years old and the loving mother of two sons, ages 20 and 11. She was a survivor of the 1993 bombing on the World Trade Center. Babakitis was born on Manhattan's Lower East Side and graduated from Central Commercial High School there in 1971. Her office was on the 64th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower.

Richard J. Cudina, a broker with Cantor Fitzgerald for about a year, was 46 years old with a commercial helicopter pilot's license. He flew tourists and others to photograph the World Trade Center from the air. He grew up in Cliffside Park. He was a star on the high school soccer team. A graduate of Kean College, he worked for a time as a ski instructor in Europe and Colorado, and he and his wife, Georgia, lived in Harmon Cove for years before moving to Glen Gardner, N.J. several years ago. Cudina was at work on the 105th floor of the North Tower when terrorists struck.

Nancy E. Perez, an EZ-Pass supervisor for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was 36 years old at the time of the attack on the World Trade Center. Perez had just moved to Secaucus from Union City. She had worked her way up through the Port Authority, starting as an administrative assistant in 1984, and received a promotion shortly before the attack. Her parents had moved to Hudson County after fleeing Cuba. She was in the World Trade Center in 1993 when it was first bombed, and friends said she never recovered from the fear. She worked on the 64th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower.

Kenneth A. Simon, an equities trader for Cantor Fitzgerald in 1 World Trade Center, was 34 years old at the time of the attack. He was an avid New York Yankees fan and tended to relate personal experience such as when he met his wife to Yankees events. He did meet his wife, Karen, during the Yankees' successful 1996 championship. He proposed marriage near South Street Seaport within sight of the World Trade Center. They got married during the 1998 Yankee championship year. His daughter, Maya, was four months old at the time of the attack.

Steven Strobert, a broker for Cantor Fitzgerald, was 33 at the time of the attack. The son of a former Secaucus Board of Education member, Strobert had moved out of Secaucus. He was well-liked by nearly everyone he met. Like several other victims of the disaster, Strobert had also survived the 1993 attack, during which he helped a pregnant and frightened woman escape - walking her down over 100 flights of stairs despite the risk to himself.

Michael A.Tanner, who earned a bachelor's degree in consumer economics from Cornell's College of Human Ecology in 1980, worked as an investment officer and trader for the securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald. He was quarterback who helped lead the Cornell University Big Red football team to a winning record in 1979 and led the team at St. Joseph's High School in West New York before that. Tanner was the oldest of five children, and his own father had passed away during his senior year in high school. He has been called a powerful leader, leaving behind his wife, Michele, and his two daughters, Sasha and Gianna.
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