An estimated 200 people gathered to acknowledge the official opening of the New Paltz 9/11 memorial this Monday at the corner of Henry W. Dubois Drive and North Putt Corners Road, at the edge of New Paltz Village Fire Station #2.
The memorial has an American flag of remembrance inscribed with the 3,300 victims’ names, sealed in lucite and mounted on a granite. Two granite benches are set far enough from the flag that a seated person might easily view it. The flag of remembrance is framed by pieces hauled from Ground Zero, most of a balustrade, and a twisted section of iron beam. A field of bluestone ties all the elements together.
“I wanted kids in school to be able to take a field trip someplace local to learn about that day,” explained Butch Dener, who has been dreaming of creating a memorial for at least ten years. Behind the large granite centerpiece is his first effort in that direction, a tree of remembrance he and the late Carmine Liberta planted on this spot. The modest block acknowledging the tree’s planting has been moved to the other side of its trunk, and its branches now hang gracefully over the completed site. It also has a new arboreal companion, a cutting from the “survivor tree” which remained alive after the collapse of the World Trade Center. Its planting was accomplished by the staff at Masseo Landscaping.
While Dener took the lead, creation of the memorial was a community effort. Many people donated money, and a number of bricks engraved with their names are included in the design. The pieces of World Trade Center steel came through the efforts of both police and fire personnel. Local artist Craig Shankles raised the money to pay for the benches, which he built himself, in part with equipment at KC Fabrications, the Gardiner-based company which built the memorial in New York City. KC’s owners were among the businesses which who donated services, materials or funds to help Dener build the monument.
Gardiner resident/actor Robert De Niro also got involved, donating $1500 to complete the project. Dener said that he sent De Niro an invitation to the opening ceremony, and received a call from the actor’s security chief offering the donation. “You could have knocked me over with a feather. I told him I wasn’t asking for money,” Dener recalled. “And he said, That’s why you’re getting it.”
That surprise wasn’t unusual. Dener said he started with no budget, “just a clipboard in my hand.”
The project “took on a life of its own.” Once site-plan drawings were donated by Alfandre Architecture, the process steam rolled into completion.
With some money left over, Dener said he already knows what upgrades he’d like to see: LEDs to light the memorial, for one, and better mountings for the flag.