Construction begins on 9-11 memorial in town

Memorial designer and landscape architect Bob Horsley, left, and VIFR assistant chief Bob Larsen, right, watch carefully as the first column is lowered into place.  - Natalie Martin/Staff Photo
Memorial designer and landscape architect Bob Horsley, left, and VIFR assistant chief Bob Larsen, right, watch carefully as the first column is lowered into place.
— image credit: Natalie Martin/Staff Photo

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue’s 9-11 memorial has gone from plan to reality, as the first of its pieces was set in place on Thursday.

Chief Hank Lipe, who has driven the project since the fire station obtained a piece of steel from the fallen World Trade Center (WTC) three years ago, was on hand for the long-awaited occasion.

“You can see me pacing. This is how I feel when my daughter is just about to race,” said Lipe, whose daughter is a rower. “It’s nerve wracking. We’ve been working on this for three years.”

The anxiety Lipe referred to was due to the logistics of actually building the memorial, which is comprised of multiple pieces of columnar basalt from the Columbia River basin that will stand vertically to represent the New York city skyline. One of those columns will have the steel piece embedded in it, representing the destruction caused by the attack.

“We wanted to make this interactive,” said Bob Horsley, a landscape architect and the memorial’s designer. “It’s not just something to look at; there will be a bench and sitting stones in among the columns so people can actually be a part of it.”

There will also be a special fire hose coiled around the bottom of one of the columns to represent the firefighters.

The construction of the memorial has been delayed primarily due to slow county permitting processes and fundraising needs, but they’ve now cleared the biggest hurdles, Lipe explained, although there are ongoing expenses.

“People may not realize that there is no public or taxpayer money involved in this project,” Lipe said. “The entire project has been privately supported through gifts and donations.”

Placement of each piece requires a crane and precise placement over rebar pins to prevent the pieces from cracking. After placing the first column on Thursday, it was determined that a larger crane would be needed to properly manage the height and weight of the remaining pieces. Lipe said that they have the new  crane scheduled to come at the end of July.

From there, the memorial’s completion will entail laying stonework over the concrete base and landscaping. Lipe said the station hopes to have it ready by this year’s anniversary of Sept. 11.

“We’re so close now.” Lipe said, “It will be nice for the community and for us to finally see this completed.”

Donations are still being accepted for VIFR’s 9-11 memorial project. To contribute, go to Station 55 on Bank Rd.

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