On Pier A Park, across the river from the new World Trade Center, stands the city’s new glass-paneled Sept. 11 memorial.
The structure is 90 feet long and just over six feet tall. It features fortified glass panels inscribed with the names and birthdates of the 56 Hoboken residents who died during the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The panels sit atop a steel beam reminiscent of the wreckage and they will be lit at night from underneath.
Steel plaques with quotes from that day and from family members of victims will encircle a gingko tree grove, with pavers also around it.
“I’m really proud and we have been working really hard to ensure we have a beautiful peaceful memorial for the people of Hoboken,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer, “for the families of the victims, and for the young people in Hoboken who maybe don’t remember, for everyone to have a place to come and remember together. It was a tragic time but it was also a time when Hoboken and our nation came together and supported each other, so it’s also a time of communities coming together and obviously a time of great sadness. Annually, I think it’s a time of remembrance.”
The memorial will officially be open the morning of Monday, Sept. 11. The area will remain fenced off until the Hoboken Italian Festival wraps up on Sunday, Sept. 10. Also, the city’s annual 9/11 memorial service will take place Monday at 6 p.m. at the memorial.
“I didn’t know if I was going to make it home that night.”—Leo Pellegrini
The project began during the administration of Mayor David Roberts. At the time, the city proposed an island park memorial and footbridge in the water off Pier A Park. But $4 million cost proved a bit much as the city soon struggled with budget problems.
“I think … there were promises that were made about providing the funding that didn’t come through. But I think through this process we’ve come to what is a better design one that’s more resilient,” said Zimmer.
The new memorial cost $1.7 million, funded by city bonds.
The city did have a smaller memorial before that. A year after the attacks, the city erected a glass memorial at Pier A Park with the names of the victims etched into it, but it was damaged during a nor’easter in 2011 and had to be removed.
In 2002 the Sept. 11 Memorial Tree Grove was planted on Pier A Park, but Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Director of Environmental Services Leo Pellegrini said that many people did not know the grove was a living memorial.
Last year, the council approved a bond for the memorial’s construction.
Hoboken lost more residents in the attacks than any other zip code outside of New York, yet the city has not had a permanent memorial until now.
The current structure still hit roadblocks.
“It took us a year to have the glass tested and bonded to be strong enough,” said Pellegrini, who oversaw the construction.
Pellegrini said overseeing the memorial has been emotional.
“On 9/11 you feel bad for obviously the victims, but everyone seems to have a story of 9/11,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it home that night because I worked in downtown Manhattan, so it’s a very special project for me not only professionally, but also personally.”
In 2001, residents slowly filled the city’s waterfront to see the smoke from the first tower that was hit at 8:46 a.m. PATH trains were stopped. At 9:03 a.m., the second tower was hit by a plane. That tower collapsed 56 minutes later.
The authorities began clearing Pier A, as they thought they might bring survivors of the attacks there, but it was not to be.
More than 2,900 people died on that day, and thousands more have made government claims saying they are sick as a result of being near the debris.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.