Officials at Rockland Community College unveiled a new statue and 9/11 Memorial Garden Tuesday morning on the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“It is a day when we remember the victims of September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on America that occurred 11 years ago,” said Dr. Cliff Wood, president of RCC. “It is a day when we remember our vulnerability, when we reflect on all of the privileges and all the opportunities given to us as citizens of this great land, a day when we are reminded that our way of life, our values, are viewed negatively by some. And it is a day when we come together despite any cultural or political differences we may have to honor the memories and the spirits of those who lost their lives that fateful morning in 2001.”
The garden is behind the Technology Center and features a ceramic tiled path, some tiles inscribed with messages such as “Remember” and “Let us make a better world.” At the center of the garden is a circular area with four benches and more tiles, including large ones that read “Love One Another.” The design for the garden came from Page Simon, an RCC art professor. The tiles were done by artist Cathy McErlean-Goddard. In the center of the circular area is a statue built by artist Eric David Laxman, of Valley Cottage, who works in Garnerville.
“We do this not only to remember these victims, these loved ones, but also to remind us all of the work we must individually and collectively do to bring peace and understanding in our world so that we are truly safe,” Wood said. “While we must work to be prepared, the bigger vision is to create a lasting peace, as we learn to live together in this world that grows ever smaller. We must learn to love one another.”
Tuesday’s ceremony also featured RCC English Professor and Poet-In-Residence Dan Masterson of Pearl River reading a poem he wrote called “Out of the Blue.” Herve Alexandre, a performing arts student, played “Amazing Grace” on his saxophone and Dan Ansaldo, an adjunct faculty member, sang the national anthem. Veterans currently enrolled in RCC read the names of those with ties to Rocklandwho lost their lives due to the terrorist attack.
The statue features a partially warped metal bottom and three large blocks of marble stacked vertically. The marble is held up using four metal plates, which came from the World Trade Center.
“My main goal in creating the piece was to be able to transform these steel plates from the World Trade Center site and to be able to some way incorporate them into something that was bigger and had some kind of lasting meaning to people who lost family and friends in the 9/11 bombing,” Laxman said.
Wood and Page applied for the metal plates from the World Trade Center, and were awarded them by the MTA. Laxman said he started on the statue in late June and worked through the summer. He added that he wanted it to have the feel as if all the piece flew together and were lifted up, thus giving the statue its name, Spirit Rising.
“It’s really special and really an honor as an artist to be asked to create a piece of art that’s part of something that’s really part of a national psyche, especially and part of a community,” Laxman said. “And to have it be on the campus where people will see it and interact with it and utilize this garden on a regular basis is really a thrill.”