SALT LAKE CITY — A 9,000-pound piece of history traveled down Parley’s Canyon on a flatbed truck Friday morning, an artifact from the collapse of the World Trade Center destroyed by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
Before the American Fallen Warrior Memorial Foundation helped the stone make its way to Utah, it was part of a slurry wall that kept Ground Zero from being flooded by the Hudson River.
The Utah Highway Patrol escorted the concrete slab to the Fort Douglas Military Museum, where the families of fallen soldiers, donor companies and other supporters kicked off a 20-stop statewide tour the artifact will take before coming to rest in a memorial park at Fort Douglas.
“It means the whole world to me that this honors all of us who have been through this,” said Nancy Rougle, mother of Staff Sgt. Larry Rougle, who was killed in Afghanistan at the age of 25 on Oct. 23, 2007. “I think it’s going to help us heal.”
Rougle said the memorial will be a near-by way to remember her son, who is buried in Arlington, Va. Her husband, Ismael Rougle, is a Vietnam veteran. With glassy eyes, he said he was feeling excitement and joy and was glad to see something to remember Larry by.
“Today we honor them,” said Jack R. Barnes, president of the American Fallen Warrior Memorial Foundation. “We honor the 67 fallen warriors from Utah, as well as we honor the 7,300 that died for this flag and our country.”
Barnes also said that besides preserving the legacies of fallen soldiers, the memorial honors their families who “live the sacrifice every day.”
“This is for you,” Barnes said to the Gold Star families. “This is about the service and sacrifice of your sons, daughters, husbands and wives.”
This service and sacrifice was on Raette Belcher's mind when she decided to head up a memorial project for Utah's fallen soldiers.
“What struck me the most was as I sat there at this dinner listening to these Gold Star mothers talk about their sons’ lives was how proud they were of them for serving in the military,” said Belcher, executive director of the memorial project. “None of them regretted losing their son in the fight against terrorism. They were very proud of them, and it was very overwhelming and touching to me.”
Belcher was emotional as she recounted the process and success of the project to get what she hopes will be a “healing stone” in Utah.
“This was pretty amazing,” Belcher said. “This is what we need to pay tribute to those that gave their ultimate sacrifice, their lives, for us.”
Now she is looking forward to starting the tour of Utah. Before it returns to the memory park for the Oct. 21 dedication, the World Trade Center artifact will travel to 19 cities in Utah. It will be in the west parking lot of Rice-Eccles Stadium from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and then start its state tour in Logan on Monday.
“We are still needing funds to build our memorial site and make sure everything is paid for, so every stop we’re passing around the fireman hat and asking for donations,” Belcher said. “If we just got a dollar from everyone we come in contact with, we’ll be able to finish paying for this site.”
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