Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian called on the children of the city to help him light up the newly installed 9/11 monument on the evening of Sept. 11, during the the city's annual remembrance ceremony.
At his request, a sea of children, toddlers to teens, encircled the monument and together counted down to signal the lighting of the structure.
Most Americans remember exactly where they were at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, but for many young Americans that dreadful day is something they will learn about through stories, history textbooks and monuments such as Ocean City's, which features an original piece of World Trade Center steel at its core.
Speaking to a crowd of more than 500 people in front of the Sixth Street Fire House, Mayor Gillian said the monument is meant to be a constant reminder of the thousands of ordinary citizens who lost their lives that day and the bravery and courage they showed.
"These are the stories I urge you to tell your children and grandchildren when you visit this memorial and remember that day 11 years ago today," Gillian said.
The 9/11 remembrance monument was created by local artist Jose Chora with the assistance of fellow artist Michael Delfiandra, both members of the Ocean City Community Arts Projects, or CAP, a nonprofit aimed at beautifying the city through public art. The focal point of the monument is the World Trade Center steel I-beam. Surrounding the I-beam are a series of metal cylinders jutting skyward and coming together like a teepee, with the light reflections gliding up each bar.
"I wanted to get the chaos of the day, but also represent the spirits rising," Chora said. "When the light shines, it gives you that gleam of energy. As you approach the sculpture, you're faced with the artifact, you're faced with part of history, that's what you want the viewer to see first, and then as you get close to the piece, the viewer has to look upward following the light."
Mayor Gillian asked the CAP artists to create the monument.
"We really did it up and made it special," said CAP President Leslie Skibo who appointed Chora and Delfiandra to head the task.
The city also added new landscaping and construction work to accentuate the sculpture.
Gillian said the city is honored to have received the piece of history and wanted to do something special with it.
"This was something that was really important to me," he said. "When this steel came in, we looked at it for a while and tried to figure out what do to, and it came to us to call on the talented artists of our community. It really is a beautiful sight."
Ocean City resident Julia Wilson, 9, who sang God Bless America and helped to light the monument during the 9/11 ceremony, said that even though she wasn't alive when the terrorist attacks took place, she still feels a sense of pride in her country when she looks at the structure.
"They're real heroes," Wilson said of those who lost their lives that day. "They risked their lives for us."
Her mother, Melissa Wilson, who is the wife of councilman Tony Wilson, said she feels it's important for her kids to know the stories of Sept. 11, 2001, and to never forget those that died that day. Her son, Anthony, was 15 months old when the attacks occurred, and she remembers cradling her baby as she watched the horrific scenes on the TV.
"I've been telling my kids all day how important this day is," she said. "Yes, it's a sad day, but I also tell them today is a day to celebrate heroes."
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