PUBLISHED: 5:18 PM on Wednesday, April 6, 2005
Rotary invites public to participate in Sept. 11 memorial expansion

Illustration courtesy of Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary Club
  The design of the memorial is a broken pentagon. Each side is 4 feet in length, to represent the four airplanes lost. The two sections missing represent the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It is built of Pennsylvania marble and concrete to represent the strength of all the heroes. The flag represents the unity of our country, and the top of the pentagon is aligned with the North Star, a symbol of all Alaskans.
When terrorists struck on September 11, 2001, Americans took it personally regardless of where they lived.

One of those Americans was Juneau Rotarian Brent Fischer. One of Fischer's friends perished on board flight 77. But that's not the only reason Fischer, a facilities maintenance superintendent for Juneau Parks & Recreation Department, has been an instrumental force in the creation of the September 11th Memorial in Juneau's Rotary Park.

"I really think a memorial helps people heal," Fischer said last week.

The memorial, a broken pentagon supporting a flag pole, is located right next to the walkway that leads from the Rotary Park parking lot to the playground. Created in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the memorial was finished just in time for an inauguration on the first somber anniversary.

"We've had memorial services there every year, every September 11th," said Fischer. "It's always very moving. But the memorial just felt unfinished, incomplete."

That's why Fischer, designer of the memorial that's now in place, suggested an improvement of the memorial as the Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary Club's Centennial project.

Rotary International, a community service organization that started in Chicago, Ill, in 1905 now has over 1.2 million members in 31,000 Rotary clubs in 167 countries worldwide. For the centennial, each club will be working on a project.

The improvement of the Rotary Park memorial also constituted an opportunity for Rotary to get the community involved.

The improvement design, co-created by Fischer and Jensen Yorba Lott chief architect Wayne Jensen, will surround the current memorial with a pentagon-shaped plaza created with bricks. Outside the plaza benches will provide a place for visitors to pause and reflect, nested between Serviceberry trees - a tree, Fischer said, that blossoms beautifully in spring and provides a thick, green foliage throughout the summer.

"We chose that also because the name is very suitable, considering our motto, 'Service Above Self'."

Rotary is now inviting the public to sponsor a brick and personalize it with a message and a choice of symbols. And you don't have to be wealthy to buy a brick -Ea 4"x8" brick costs only $65.

"I've taken some heat over the price," Fischer said. "People didn't think we could raise the money necessary."

But the price is deliberately set low enough to allow ordinary families to purchase a brick and contribute to the memorial.

Bricks can be inscribed with the family name, the name of a loved one the buyer wants to honor -Emaybe a family member in the armed services or in the law enforcement or fire department - or a message of tribute or honor to those lost on that day.

"People are excited," Fischer said. "But it's not one of those things where I can show you a flyer and ask you to give me a check - this is something people need to reflect over, what they want to put on the brick."

Brick ordering is going well, with organizations like Cancer Connection and SEADogs having placed orders, together with doctors, chiropractors, law enforcement officers, Coast Guard, and fishing vessel owners. Inscriptions range from business names to families to remembrances of people who died in the Sept. 11th attacks.

So far, Glacier Valley Rotary has raised about $6,000 for the project. The goal is $38,000, and Fischer is optimistic about the prospects of reaching it.

"We get between one and five orders every day, by fax, mail, and e-mail," he said.

Deadline for the first phase of the project is April 30, so Southeast Alaskans wanting to buy a brick on the plaza still have a few weeks to ponder their choice of inscription.

The new improvements to the site are planned to be put in place during the month of August, to be finished in time for this year's memorial service on Sept. 11th.

The Juneau Rotary club has contacted the September 11th Victims organization in New York to let them know about the expansion of the Juneau memorial, "and show them that there are people up here who care," said Fischer. "It's really a bittersweet project," he concluded.

Editor's Note: To find out more about the September 11th Memorial improvement project at Riverside Rotary Park, or to download a brochure with the details, including an order form, go to or contact Brent Fischer by e-mail at or by phone at 635-1818.