Making memorials to keep us from forgetting 9/11

September 10th, 2013 | by Barrett Newkirk | Comments

An obelisk monument honoring late council member Stanley Sniff is seen in this 2011 file photo taken at La Quinta Civic Center Park. (Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun)

An obelisk monument honoring late council member Stanley Sniff is seen in this 2011 file photo taken at La Quinta Civic Center Park. (Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun)

Civic Center Park in La Quinta is dotted with sculptures asking us to remember. A metal obelisk sits in a pond to honor Stanley Sniff, a longtime La Quinta councilman. Sheets of metal mimicking mountains are imprinted with the names of area artists. A plaque so patinaed it’s difficult to read marks the Dec. 7, 2002, dedication of “The Freedom Tree.”

As a new resident to the valley, these spots hold no significance to me. I wonder how much significance they still hold for the community where they stand.

Another monument in the park less than a year will serve as the backdrop to a service Wednesday marking the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That day is not easily forgotten, but as the years pass and these minor anniversaries become more frequent, it seems like it becomes easier to move on, to start thinking about everything that’s happened since and things coming on the horizon. I’m talking about everything from what to do about Syria to what to do about dinner.

Andrew Davis of La Quinta stands next to the Sept. 11 memorial sculpture at La Quinta’s Civic Center Campus. Davis spent three years fundraising to get the sculpture built as his Eagle Scout project. Davis will be attending a 9/11 ceremony at the memorial Wednesday evening. (Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun)

Andrew Davis of La Quinta stands next to the Sept. 11 memorial sculpture at La Quinta’s Civic Center Campus. Davis spent three years fundraising to get the sculpture built as his Eagle Scout project. Davis will be attending a 9/11 ceremony at the memorial Wednesday evening. (Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun)

Andrew Davis gets credit for working to slow our collective forgetfulness. As the capstone project to becoming an Eagle Scout, Davis spent three years campaigning and fundraising to bring the 9/11 memorial to La Quinta. The monument of concrete and steel (including a rusted I-beam from the World Trade Center) was unveiled in January.

“No one will probably ever forget unless they’re not told, which would be a shame,” he said Tuesday afternoon while showing me the memorial.

Davis and event organizers hope the memorial at 7:30 p.m. will add extra significance to the annual ceremony.

Dorothy Azer, for one, is glad it’s there. The 84-year-old remembers seeing the World Trade Center’s twin towers being built in the 1960s and she was in New York City the day after they came down. She was planning to attend the service Wednesday evening.

“There couldn’t be anything nicer,” she said after stopping in front of the memorial and meeting Davis.

Mike and Mary Rodriquez were also at Civic Center park on Tuesday. The Cathedral City couple doesn’t visit often, but it is near their daughter’s school. They weren’t aware of the 9/11 memorial standing a few yards from where they sat, but they walked over and examined it after talking to me about the anniversary.

Mike Rodriquez, 55, remembers turning on the TV and watching the events of 12 years ago unfold. “When the second plane hit, it was like, ‘Did I just see what I saw?’  he said.

The couple said that if it weren’t for the 9/11 television specials that air this time every year, the anniversary could have come and gone almost unnoticed. When I asked about the current debate over Syria, Mike said he thought President Barack Obama should at least link his argument supporting intervention to the mood of the country after 9/11.

“I’m all for going in there if that’s helping out the country,” Mike said, referring to Syria. It’s a view most Americans don’t appear to share.

Davis talks about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the memorial created in La Quinta. (Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun)

Davis talks about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the memorial created in La Quinta. (Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun)

On Wednesday, the country pauses to think about recent history, but the debate about the pending future isn’t likely to slow down. Add in the hustle of our daily lives, most of us won’t be stopping to attend a memorial or candlelight vigil. I don’t expect to be, but meeting Davis and seeing the results of his dedication have made me grateful for these monuments sitting and waiting to be discovered and challenging us to remember.

Barrett Newkirk can be reached at (760) 778-4767, barrettnewkirk@thedesertsun.com or on Twitter @barrettnewkirk.

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