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Mercer County Park dedicates 9/11 memorial

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A ceremony to dedicate a September 11, 2001 memorial took place in Mercer County Park on Sunday, September 11, 2011.  A decade after the attacks, the ceremony on Sunday’s gray afternoon brought together over a hundred spectators to commemorate the now infamous date of 9/11.  While the crowd was comprised of a diverse group of people, there was striking unity in emotion and response to the memorial.

“We’re gathered today, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, much like we were on that tragic day 10 years ago,” said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes at the dedication ceremony Sunday. Behind Hughes stood a ten-foot beam that serves as the focal point for the memorial.

The beam itself is a recovered piece of steel from Ground Zero.  The steel beam is anchored to the curved cement wall behind it with 13 metal cables, symbolic of the 13 municipalities within Mercer County.  Benches around the memorial are designed to represent the four planes that crashed that day, and the physical orientation of the memorial’s back wall, north-to-south 180 degrees, are the same heading as the first plane that hit the North Tower.  This symbolic construction was commissioned by Kevin Bannon, Executive Director of the Mercer County Parks Commission and designed by Clarke Caton Hintz, a Trenton-based architecture, planning and landscape firm.

“We wanted to make a park within a park,” Executive Director Kevin Bannon told The VOICE.  Three months of landscaping transformed the formerly flat piece of land behind the Mercer County Marina into the sloping hill that now encompases the memorial.

“Our goal was to make it an easy place to visit,” said Bannon, noting that the area is one of the busiest places within the entire park.  “We hope a lot of classes can come to visit,” said Bannon.

Katarzyna Mazerant, an Honors student at Mercer, attended the ceremony with friends and classmates.  “I was back then in Poland,” she said, remembering the attacks of September 11, 2001.  “I was watching TV and on every single channel we saw what happened…it was pretty scary for all of us, even in Europe.”  Now, a decade later, Mazerant considered what the memorial symbolized for her: “Something is left for everyone.”

To mother of three Jennifer Anson, the memorial means something rather similar.  “Its very close to home,” she said, adding, “It’s a part of history that I lived through that I can teach my children about how I felt that day.”

To county executive Brian Hughes, the memorial and ceremony “means a very strong reminder that freedom and personal liberty will triumph over religious fundamentalism,” he said.  “That’s why you build reminders like this….you want future generations to know something of seminal importance happened on this day.”

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