9/11 memorial at Hutch Metro Center hosts unveiling

Borough President Diaz (r) addressed the importance of the monument dedicated two days after the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Photo by Fernando Justiniano

Northeast Bronx residents and local leaders gathered at a new memorial to the September 11th attacks on Wednesday, September 13 to remember the tragedy that claimed thousands of lives 16 years ago.

Kicking off with a performance of ‘Amazing Grace’ by the Port Authority Police Pipe and Drum Corp, the half-hour ceremony was held at a newly erected memorial adjacent in the parking lot of the Marriot Residence Inn hotel at the Hutchinson Metro Center complex.

The new memorial, entitled Freedom is Not Free, consists of a large bronze eagle with a six-foot wingspan holding a steel World Trade Center beam. It is surrounded by an open plaza.

Simone Metro Properties president Joe Kelleher said his company had wanted to create a 9/11 memorial at the office complex for years, and was eventually able to secure a piece of original steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center to use in the monument.

While attending an event called Honor Day in New Jersey that raises funds to honor service members, Kelleher said he was impressed by the memorial erected there.

“A day later, we got a call from the Port Authority saying they had identified a piece of steel from the ruins of the works trade center – it’s sitting up here,” he said. “They said we could have it if we did something meaningful with it.”

Joe Cary of Monroe, New Jersey was the man who helped create the memorial in Farmingdale, NJ that served as inspiration for the Metro Center memorial.

He thanked the Port Authority Police Union for donating the steel.

“To be close to the steel is humbling,” he said. “It’s a piece of history.”

While the events 16 years ago were tragic, stories of selfless acts of first responders would soon emerge, Cary recalled.

“We would all soon understand that while this horrific act was unwarranted and grotesque, love, courage and hope would always conquer hate,” he said.

The new memorial sits in the Hutchinson Metro Center, the large Simone Properties development located just off the Hutchinson River Parkway near the Pelham Parkway exit.

Kelleher said the 9/11 attacks also inspired the real estate developer to relinguish the property the new city 911 call center was built on.

“That silver building you see on the north end of this property is open, and it is protecting us on a daily basis,” Kelleher said.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said the borough lost 144 residents. While the city witnessed the ugliest that humanity has to offer, Diaz said it also saw bravery and courage.

“We challenged our fate, we questioned God,” he said. “We found solace in that evil that day was met by the beautiful things that makes us all God’s children.”

Also on hand for Wednesday’s event was Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, who compared the 9/11 attacks to the Pearl Harbor attacks and the killing of John F. Kennedy as events that would be remembered by an entire generation.

It is important that we remember these events,” Benedetto said. “You have created this (memorial) and we appreciate it.”

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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