Dan Shanower was the inspiration behind the commander Dan Shanower – 9/11 Memorial, which was one of the first built in the country. The memorial is the work of a grassroots effort to remember a tragedy that impacted thousands across the country, including in Naperville.
Peter Crawford was one of the several local architects and visionaries behind the project.
“We got together and started talking about how best to take all these feelings that were out there and being expressed by the town and capture them in a memorial,” said Crawford.
Stephanie Penick remembers how hundreds of Naperville residents came together as one to share in those feelings of grief.
“People sort of gravitated toward the city,” said Penick. “It was all open green space [where the memorial is now] and one by one we started watching people plant the [American] flags.”
From there, a 23-person committee decided that’s where the memorial would go, behind the municipal building.
Included is a tribute to commander Shanower and benches marked with his well-known saying, “Freedom isn’t free.”
There are also 140 faces designed by school children that are molded into a 40-foot concrete wall. These faces are symbolic of the casualties. Next to that wall remains an eternal flame.
“Anytime I’m here, it just tugs at my heart to watch the people stop and walk around and pause and look at everything, look at all the faces on the wall,” said Penick.
The Naperville Century Walk added the last element, a sculpture that consists of rubble from the wreckage.
“We tried to combine all the elements of that day and artistically represent them,” said Brand Bobosky, the President of the Naperville Century Walk. “I think it’s a great artistic representation of what occurred that day and we can look at it and remember.”
A steel beam from the world trade center rests on top of a marble pentagon, which has a footprint representative of Dan Shanower and broken concrete from the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Below the beam is the number 93, the flight that crashed into an open field in Pennsylvania.
Crawford say it all pays homage to the innocent lives lost that day.
“The image of all the people that were touched & all the people affected, against the tragedy of the event, & the significance of Dan, it all comes together for me,” said Crawford. “They’re all here. It’s all expressed. “
The $250,000 memorial was funded entirely by private donations.
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