Fifteen years after the devastating September 11, 2001 attacks, a group of volunteers in Hayward are set to unveil a memorial honoring the victims. The city will dedicate the new Hayward 9/11 memorial this Monday in a special Memorial Day tribute.
This week a group of volunteers loaded in the last pieces of the memorial — four 10-foot tall black monoliths bearing etchings of the Twin Towers and each one inscribed with one of the four planes used in the attacks.
“Our world changed after 9/11,” said Michael Emerson, the Hayward Gulf War veteran who designed the memorial. “I just don’t want anyone to forget.”
A small plot of grass across from Hayward’s library was transformed into a brick plaza with granite benches paying tribute to military veteran groups. Another piece of granite honors the Hayward policemen and firefighters killed in the line of duty. The city donated the land and Emerson and his group contributed the design, financing and labor.
One of the monoliths is inscribed with the name of every Hayward war casualty, dating all the way back to the Spanish Civil War, Emerson said.
“It’s just a place a place for them to reflect,” Emerson said. “A place to honor those that have died.”
The memorial was seven years in the making. Emerson previously designed a Union City memorial to United Flight 93, which plunged into a Pennsylvania field on September 11th. Since then he’s gone on to work on nearly a dozen memorials, including national tributes to the attack victims.
“I don’t fish, i don’t golf, it’s just what i do,” Emerson said, watching a crane swing one of the massive monoliths into place.
Emerson not only helped raise the $30 thousand to pay for the project, he enlisted volunteers with serious industrial skills like contractor Brian Morrison.
“I’m asked I guess,” Morrison said. “And so it’s good to give back to the community.”
Project managers raised much of the funding by selling engraved bricks which line the floor of the memorial. One of the bricks pays tribute to Jason Dahl, the San Jose pilot who was at the helm of Flight 93 when it was taken over by terrorists and crashed.
“The East Coast — they live the memorial with the New York site, and Shanksville site and the Pentagon,” said Dahl’s brother-in-law Bill Heiderich of the new memorial. “I think it’s good for the West Coast. West Coast people need to embrace that loss.”
Heiderich stood over Dahl’s grave in San Jose’s Oak Hill cemetery, which appropriately sits under the flight path of nearby Mineta San Jose International Airport. Although 15 years has rolled by since the attacks, Heiderich said the memories and pain are fresh for the survivors.
Heiderich said he and his wife, Dahl’s sister Carol Heiderich, will attend the dedication of the new memorial on Monday, to walk among the granite fixtures and step over the bricks emblazoned with the words “never forget.”
“Time heals all wounds? I’m not so sure,” Heiderich said. “I think they just change. Still a huge loss.”