Hobe Sound 9/11 Memorial closer to reality

The Hobe Sound 9/11 Memorial site finally has a home. Hobe Sound artist Nadia Utto announced on her website, UrbanCamouflageArts.com, during the first week of September that the Hobe Sound Fire Station #32 on Federal Highway south of Bridge Road will be the site of the proposed “World Fountain & 9/11 Memorial” designed by Utto.

Site selection has shrouded the project in controversy for much of the past year after some residents objected to its originally proposed location at either Zeus Park or at the Hobe Sound Community Center. The fire station also had declined to have the memorial installed on that property due to the lack of parking.

The most ambitious of all the county’s proposed 9/11 memorials, the Hobe Sound project will feature a mosaic of the world comprising pieces of stone from 128 countries at the bottom of a shallow reflecting pool to represent the global impact of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. There also will be three fountains to represent not only the basic tool of the firefighter, water, but also the tears shed on that day.

The passage of 10 years allows, perhaps, a more clear perspective of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. More evident than the terror inflicted upon a nation by extremists is the bravery exhibited by first responders, by the passengers on Flight 93 that thwarted an even greater disaster, and by the members of countless families whose hearts crumbled along with the twin towers. Every American was touched that day, whether in New York or not, and no one would ever be the same.

“It is important that we never forget that day,” said Dennis McKenna, organizer of the 9/11 First Responders of the Treasure Coast, at a recent Martin County Commission meeting. He arranged for the trucking of the three pieces of mangled steel salvaged from Ground Zero from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to Stuart for memorials at Port St. Lucie, Palm City and Hobe Sound. The pieces of steel will be stored at a Stuart municipal building on Monterey Road until ready to be installed.

“But it’s not going to be on the taxpayers’ dollar,” said Martin County Commissioner Patrick Hayes, whose district includes Hobe Sound. “It’s going to be on a group of volunteers who have contributed their time and their labor and the amount of funds necessary to both permit it and compensate the county for whatever ongoing maintenance and presentation is necessary.”

According to Utto’s website, the Hobe Sound 9/11 memorial will be constructed through the fund-raising efforts of an umbrella organization, Landmark ARTS, Inc. Serving on the board are Nadia and Josef Utto, artists and co-owners of Urban Camouflage Arts Company who spearheaded this project, and are founders of the Hobe Sound Murals Project; Jennifer Ferrari, former executive director of the Hobe Sound Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the original application for the steel, and currently employed by Treasure Coast Hospice; Tom Fucigna, environmental scientist at CZR and former chairman of the Hobe Sound Neighborhood Advisory committee; and Bosha Stone, president of the Seabranch Art League.

Another piece of World Trade Center steel will be part of a 9/11 memorial in Jock Leighton Park in Palm City, which will be visible from Martin Highway, said county Commissioner Ed Ciampi, whose district includes Palm City. Martin County Fire Rescue Station #22 in Tropical Farms also plans to obtain a piece of steel in the future for a memorial there on Kanner Highway.

Steve Leighton, an aide to U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, said his family would help cover the costs of the monument in Jock Leighton Park, which was named after his grandfather, a member of one of Martin County’s pioneer families.

“The Leighton family will take care of whatever costs that the county has to take on,” Leighton told the commissioners during a recent commission meeting. “So, whatever additional costs come up, whatever trucking costs come up, we will make that happen….I’m honored that you are willing to put this at Jock Leighton Park on behalf of my grandfather.”

Ciampi assured the public that it “will not be a difficult process” to raise sufficient money to build and maintain the memorials. “It touches people’s hearts, “ he said. “If anything, we’ll probably be turning people away that would like to participate.”