Over the next few years students will be graduating from high school who weren’t even born when the 9-11 attacks occurred. It’s a sobering realization of how important the Freedom Memorial of Collier County is to Southwest Florida and the generations to come.

Years ago, local leaders proposed the idea of forming a task force to explore the idea of creating a lasting memorial in honor of those who were lost on September 11, 2001. The intent of the memorial would be to pay tribute to the firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel and civilians who died as a result of the terrorist attacks in New York City, The Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The memorial would dually serve as reminder of the sacrifices, past and present, which are made everyday by our military on the front lines, around the world. Chosen from dozens of applicants was the design and vision of Naples-based artist, Jerry LaDue.

Driving past the memorial on Golden Gate Parkway the enormous granite flag is visible, but the finer, more poignant, details must be experienced with a stroll around the memorial.

The waving flag is placed upon a silhouette of the United States of America and has been outlined with a brick walkway in the shape of a pentagon. Homage is paid to the three hijacked commercial flights, each recognized with a granite bench imprinted with the flight number.

Placed behind the memorial are two pieces of steel artifacts recovered from the World Trade Center site. They have become a geographically convenient remembrance location for local families to visit, in lieu of traveling to NYC. It is not uncommon for family members of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 to pay their respects at Freedom Park leaving behind flowers, wreaths or memorabilia. Many say that the steel has been rusted from the tears that have been shed in front of them.

Over the years, many supporters have ordered commemorative bricks to honor loved ones, a pet or to commemorate an anniversary or event in their own lives. Bricks can still be ordered and installed in the walkway at the memorial.

The memorial itself and the vision of the artist have yet to reach completion. The design calls for fifty state stones to be placed along the perimeter of the pentagon shaped walkway. Currently, the seals of New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania are in place.

The remaining state stones are now available for the general public and local businesses to sponsor. The cost per stone is $1,500. A small metal plaque will be installed on the stone with the sponsor’s name or business name.

The Freedom Memorial is located in the Fred W. Coyle Freedom Park at 1515 Golden Gate Parkway. To learn more about purchasing a brick or a state stone visit: Tax deductible donations can be made directly to the Freedom Memorial Foundation of Collier County by contacting Jerry Sanford at 239. 596.7959.

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