Story of 9/11 lives on through monument in Janesville park
JANESVILLE Under a beautiful September sky similar to the one 11 years earlier, Janesville Fire Chief Jim Jensen noted Tuesday that there is now a generation of Americans who didn't live through the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
It's a generation, he said, that needs to know the emotions, actions and outcomes of the worst terrorist attacks in United States history.
"It's a familiar but important story, one we've heard time and time again," Jensen said on the 11th anniversary of the hijackings that brought down planes, buildings and lives in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
"It's important that we keep telling it," he said.
Jensen and others spoke Tuesday as the city's fire and police departments dedicated a memorial to the firefighters, police officers and paramedics who lost their lives as a result of the attacks.
The memorial in Firehouse Park on Main Street in downtown Janesville includes a concrete obelisk that represents the World Trade Center in New York City.
A steel beam from one of the twin towers that came down branches off the obelisk to the east, the direction of New York City.
"If that beam could talk, what a story it would tell," Jensen said. "It's a story of courage and a story of sacrifice."
Jensen said that over time, memories of Sept. 11 likely will fade and anniversary celebrations will fall off the September calendar.
But, he said, the story of the attack on America and its response needs to be told over and over again.
The local monument will help storytellers do just that, he said.
"The story is ours to tell, and we need to share our memories and how it changed us," he said. "It is our duty to teach those lessons.
"We have suffered, we have learned and we have grown."
America let its guard down before the 2001 attacks, Police Chief Dave Moore said.
The country today, he said, is exponentially safer, and that has created a delicate balance between the freedoms Americans enjoy and the safety they demand.
"Most people tend to think of terrorism as an East Coast or West Coast or big city phenomenon, but it isn't," Moore said, noting that 9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui received flight training in Minnesota.
"A respected Midwestern city such as Janesville could be a perfect backdrop for a terrorist attack."
Few who lived through Sept. 11 will ever forget it, City Manager Eric Levitt said.
"The world as we knew it changed forever," he said. "While this monument is a tribute to the living and the dead, it also is a celebration of what we learned about how people acted that day.
"This monument will stand in remembrance of that day for generations to come."
The monument wouldn't be possible without the support of several people and companies, Janesville Fire Lt. Dave Sheen said. He specifically noted the involvement of architect Terry Frisch, Mid-State Concrete Industries, Budget Truck & Auto and Twist Trucking.
Sheen said significant thanks also are due to JP Cullen & Sons for donating materials, equipment and people to the project, including retiree David Kemp, who shepherded the entire project to completion.
"It just shows how a community can come together to get a project done," Sheen said.