GLEN ROCK, NJ - "We have to do something."
Those were the words from Brad Jordon who called a friend on September 12, 2001.
"He wanted to do something to help," Jon Cole, the recipient of that call, said.
Jordon, who passed away suddenly earlier this year, is the brainchild of G.R.A.C.E., the Glen Rock Assistance Council & Endowment, the organization founded to build the memorial and assist the families affected by the terrorist attack.
Cole said Jordan will be remembered, along with the 11 Glen Rock people who died on September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center when Islamic terrorists crashed two airliners into the towers causing them both to fall into rubble.
Nineteen years later, Cole remembered how the borough's 9-11 monument came about. While it took some years to put together (dedication on Sept. 11, 2004), it's founding was immediate to the event.
"Brad's vision was to have a representative from each part of the community come together," Cole said. As a member of the Board of Education at the time, he was one of the representatives.
"We had people from mental health, religious leaders, the Borough Council, the business community, and someone from the community-at-large," he said. "That's how GRACE was formed."
Cole said they made a list of the 11 individuals who perished, and they personally contacted each one, going to their doors.
"You can imagine how awkward that was," Cole said during a recent phone interview with TAPinto. "There was one home I went to where we found a woman slumped over on the floor. She was sobbing because a drawer in her kitchen was broken and she was calling out, asking why her husband was taken from her.
"We wanted to help her," Cole said. "So we did the only thing we could do at that moment, we fixed her drawer."
Cole said in the ensuing weeks, they got counseling for the families and raised funds for other needs.
"One of the most touching things was when the high school students chipped in their lunch money," Cole said. "They did it day after day. It turns out they were one of the largest contributions we received."
GRACE has raised more than $100,000 since its inception, which has enabled the board of trustees to keep the park running without taxpayer assistance.
Cole said the community as a whole came together. "We embraced them. It's what I love about Glen Rock: we take care of our own."
After doing everything they could in the immediate aftermath of the attack, GRACE then turned its focus on building the memorial.
The steel i-beam at the center of the monument on Main Street was a gift from New York City. Cole recalled how Butch Gulmy, Jordan and others, picked it up with construction equipment and gently pushed and pulled it, essentially shimmying it into the ground.
"Ever notice how shiny it is?" Cole asked. "Brad had the foresight to get it galvanized. That way it doesn't bleed rust into the ground."
And quietly, each year, a day before the ceremony, Cole and other members of the GRACE board clean the monument. They bring brooms and sweep it off, or when necessary, wash it.
No different this year, Cole checked on the monument with help from another trustee, preparing it for today's Memorial Service at the 9/11 Memorial in Veterans Park, Main Street, at 6:30 pm.
GRACE will be offering an abbreviated observance due to COVID-19, and COVID restrictions will be in place. All those in attendance must wear a face mask, keep a six-foot distance, and leave immediately when the brief ceremony is over. The Memorial is open all day today. The usual flowers and explanatory signs will be in place to honor those lost.
Glen Rock 9-11 Victims: Paul Andrew Acquaviva – 29; Grace Alegre-Cua – 40; Christopher Sean Caton -- 34; Anthony Dionisio Jr. – 38; Brendan Dolan – 37; Timothy J. Finnerty – 33; Joseph Francis Holland III – 32; Damien Meehan – 32; David Robert Meyer– 57; Richard J. Morgan – 63; and Daniel M. Van Laere – 46.
Symbols of the Memorial, as recited by Cole and listed on the group's Facebook page:
There are symbols embed physically in this stone structure. The list is read every year so that the symbols become so well known to the community that they rise to the level of oral tradition.
The two towers of black granite stand on an earth-tone base of granite, as the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood on the bedrock base of New York City.
The two towers of stone stand 110 inches tall and the radius of the circle made by the floor is 110 inches, both to remind us of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center buildings.
The i-beam of steel behind these towers of stone is from the north tower of the World Trade Center, and was a gift to Glen Rock from the City of New York because of the magnitude of our loss, its rough and torn face reminding us of the violence of that day. The steel is hidden from view from the street because our sorrow was so great that we could not bear to have it exposed like an exhibit.
The steel is buried in dust taken from “ground zero” to act as a symbol of burial for all those who could not be found and buried by their loved ones.
The four rectangular blocks of granite stand aligned with the four compass points, to inspire us to never lose our way, even in dark times.
The 11 names etched in the stone of the memorial are to remind us of those who did not return that day.