APEX — Despite the rain, nearly 400 people crowded into an Apex fire station to celebrate the unveiling of the town’s new Service Memorial on Thursday.
The memorial, valued at $71,000, was funded entirely through private donations and sits at the corner of Salem and Saunders streets downtown.
It is centered around a 6-inch cube of steel recovered from the World Trade Center’s South Tower and now rests on a 5-foot granite column.
Inscriptions on the column honor the first responders to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as U.S. veterans of wars fought on foreign soil and the men and women who respond first every day to emergencies.
Originally, plans for the memorial focused on 9/11 first responders, but Apex officials decided to broaden the plan to also recognize local first responders and veterans.
TJ Deluca, now an Apex firefighter, was a New York City firefighter and first responder to the attacks on the World Trade Center nearly 12 years ago. He was the keynote speaker during Thursday’s ceremony.
“This memorial means that our community comes first, that as Americans we understand, and we do not forget our past,” Deluca said. “Regardless of today, we can build and be better tomorrow.”
Americans are like the steel atop the granite, he said.
“It may be damaged and twisted and bent, but it is solid,” Deluca said. “That solidity is what this memorial means.”
The ceremony also featured the Apex Police Department Honor Guard and an a capella performance by the 82nd Airborne Chorus, which sang “Amazing Grace,” “American Soldier,” and “God Bless the USA,” among others.
The idea for a memorial began to take shape when Apex Town Manager Bruce Radford and Town Councilman Gene Schulze visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City last year.
Radford contacted D.H. Griffin, the Greensboro construction company selected to clean up the World Trade Center rubble, about obtaining a piece of steel for a local memorial.
“Service is important to people here,” Radford said. “Whether police, firefighters, EMS, rank-and-file public employees, they are dedicated to service. And the town really rallied around this memorial to them.”
Christina Hilt, president of CLH Designs, volunteered to design the memorial and had a final vision by November. Construction for the memorial began in June and finished this month when the granite column and steel cube were installed.
To raise money for the project, the town sold 145 bricks to individuals for $200 each. Names of local first responders and veterans are inscribed on the bricks.
The town also received donations from individuals, local nonprofits and private businesses.
Apex Fire Chief Mark Haraway said his firefighters bought a brick for the memorial.
“This memorial is a very honorable thing for the town and for any individuals who were first responders on Sept. 11, for all those currently serving and all those previously serving,” Haraway said. “This can exist as a lasting memory to all of that, and it can exist for many years to come.”
The memorial includes a brick wall designed as an area for visitors to sit and reflect, and the Apex Festival Commission donated an $18,000 clock to stand behind the memorial.
The clock face reads: “Take time to remember.”