All four hijacked flights involved in the September 11 attacks were headed to California -- the planes that struck the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan were meant to land at Los Angeles International Airport. This Sunday, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, a memorial here will be unveiled to the public for the first time: the Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Garden.
Beverly Hills Fire Chief Timothy Scranton -- who was working at Beverly Hills Fire Station 2 on Sept. 11, 2001 -- spearheaded the Memorial Garden project. The impetus behind building the monument was one of "collective strength -- as a nation we can come together for the common good," Scranton told BH Weekly.
"I wanted to ensure we never forget and to educate our younger generations," he told The Huffington Post.
The complex process of acquiring a World Trade Center artifact marked the start to the project. With the help of local crisis counselor Anne Kellogg, Scranton contacted the New York City Port Authority to procure a piece of the twin towers' rubble to display. The memorial's WTC site object is a structural steel beam. It measures 96 inches long by 66 inches wide by 51 inches high and weighs just under one ton. Although no one knows which tower the beam is from, Scranton said, "It is a piece representative of all."
The Memorial Garden was created without financial aid from the City of Beverly Hills. Instead, the Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Committee members raised more than $600,000 in donations.
The committee is made up of the Project Design Team (Project Manager Reggie Sully, Concept Designer Jim Ply, and Architect Gidas Peteris), the Community Board of Directors and the Executive Team (which includes Scranton). Sully called the team members' collaboration "pure magic."
"Initially, it was going to be the firemen getting together and laying some bricks on sand, and then it just kept blossoming more and more and more," Sully said.
The artifact from the World Trade Center has been placed on a pentagonal pedestal within the garden. The pentagon shape was chosen to commemorate the 187 men and women who lost their lives when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Memorial plaques line the pedestal, listing the names of the 2,977 people who lost their lives on 9/11. Benches provide a place to sit and reflect, and the garden's walking paths are surrounded by waterfalls and golden flowers.
A replica of the twin towers has been placed next to the garden's walking paths, between the Beverly Hills Fire Station and the monument. After the initial installation, Designer Jim Ply had the replica made taller. Aesthetically and symbolically, the replica stands tall and proud.
The Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Garden "is a tribute to those who died," Sully said. "It has been an honor to work on something like this -- it is bent but not broken."
Many cities around the world contacted the NYC Port Authority seeking pieces of rubble to memorialize the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. Scranton explained how the Beverly Hills memorial is unique: "We encased in the foundation copies of the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg address and a piece of aircraft of Flight 77." The memorial is also home to the Navy wings of Captain Charles "Chic" Burlingame III's -- the pilot of Flight 77. The wings were provided by Chic's brother, Brad.
The Beverly Hills 9/11 Memorial Garden will be unveiled Sunday, September 11, 2011, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The garden is located at 455 N. Rexford Dr.
For more information on Captain Burlingame's legacy, please refer to West Hollywood Patch, who had the privilege of speaking to his brother Brad.