Freedom Memorial in Collier County will honor fallen heroes

Rendering of the Collier County Freedom Memorial in Freedom Park. Naples artist Gerald A. Ladue created the memorial design. The granite, stone and water memorial as planned will be 13 feet tall and 40 feet wide, in the shape of the American flag anchored on a granite base in the shape of the United States.

Courtesy of Gerald A. Ladue

Rendering of the Collier County Freedom Memorial in Freedom Park. Naples artist Gerald A. Ladue created the memorial design. The granite, stone and water memorial as planned will be 13 feet tall and 40 feet wide, in the shape of the American flag anchored on a granite base in the shape of the United States.

Freedom Memorial on the way

Jerry Sanford talks about the meaning behind ...

A memorial to honor and remember the nation’s fallen heroes took another step toward completion Thursday with a groundbreaking ceremony.

The Collier County Freedom Memorial is at the county’s Freedom Park at the northeast corner of Golden Gate Parkway and Goodlette-Frank Road. About 200 people attended the event, including veterans, emergency service personnel and members of local law enforcement.

It is those people whom the memorial especially intends to honor, as well as the civilian casualties of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. John O’Keefe, a veteran and member of American Legion Post 135, called the Freedom Memorial “a wonderful tribute.”

“All veterans in the Naples area will be proud of this,” O’Keefe said.

The project began in 2004, and grew to a nationwide search for an artist who could best depict an answer to the question “what does freedom mean to me?” Designs were selected from 31 artists, and Massachusetts artist Gerald Ladue’s plan was ultimately chosen.

“I was so happy they saw in my design what they were looking for, “ recalled Ladue, who now lives in Naples.

The completed Freedom Memorial will stand 13 feet tall by 40 feet wide. The monument design is in the shape of an American flag, and positioned on a United States-shaped granite base. Ladue’s design also includes three benches, symbolizing the three attacks – the World Trade Center twin towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93 that crashed in a Pennsylvania field. There will also be a waterfall and 50 flat stones to represent the 50 states. Its perimeter will feature engraved donor bricks, which are available for $300 and $100.

“When I see the American flag in a parade or waving by me, I think, that’s my freedom,” Ladue said of his design. “That was the concept, to try and assemble a flag that was permanently waving.”

Jerry Sanford, public information officer for the North Naples Fire Department, served as chairman of the Collier County Freedom Memorial Task Force. In his groundbreaking ceremony remarks, he remembered leaving New York City on the morning of 9/11 and looking at the skyline without realizing it would soon be changed forever.

A week later, he returned to New York City to help. He told the groundbreaking audience about standing at Ground Zero.

“Here today, I am standing on similar, hallowed ground,” he said.

The 9/11 attacks were on the mind of many who attended the ceremony.

“A lot of people tend to forget about 9/11,” said Golden Gate Fire Department Engineer Jake Beckman. “This is kind of good, to have a park. You can always come here.”

Attendee Andrea Kulon is with the Collier County Veterans Council, which was part of the memorial’s fundraising efforts.

“I thought it was very important for people to have a place to go and reflect on the people they’ve lost, whether it was Vietnam or WWII or 9/11,” she said.

There’s still fundraising work to be done, however: The total cost of the project is $1.8 million. Of that, more than $200,000 has been raised. It’s enough to begin the project, although there’s no timeline for completion, said Claude Nesbitt, the county’s senior project manager for the memorial.

Despite that uncertain schedule, retired New York City firefighters Frank Devlin, David Cangero and Eugene M. Flynn noted that Collier County is still ahead of New York City in construction of a monument to remember 9/11.

It’s something the men, who all lost friends on 9/11, deeply appreciate.

“We all do the same job and take the same risk,” Flynn said. “There’s a brothership.”

E-mail Elizabeth Kellar at ewendt@comcast.net.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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