September 11 memorial set in stone

September 1, 2002
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While Stephen Shaheen was studying sculpture in Italy, he heard about the terrorist attacks on September 11. Once he returned to his hometown of Rumson, NJ, he was touched by the fact that so many lives had been lost from his native Monmouth County. He was also affected by the lack of the Twin Towers from the view of the New York City skyline, visible from the shoreline of Sandy Hook, NJ. In response to those feelings, Shaheen decided to create a memorial, sculpted from marble and granite, to pay tribute to the victims and survivors of the tragedy.

The tribute, called The Memoria Project, was sculpted at Sandy Hook from May through August 2002. Completely nonprofit, all materials were donated. Four blocks of Imperial marble, at 20,000 pounds per block, were donated from Vermont Quarries, Inc. of Rutland, VT. The raw form of the blocks was rectangular and milled and the dimensions were 125 x 125 x 200 cm. The marble statues are 4 x 4 x 13 feet.

"We were advised by Johnson Atelier [of Mercerville, NJ] to contact Vermont Quarries for the marble," said Shaheen. "Six blocks of marble were originally quarried, and I went to the quarry to pick out the four to use. It is really great marble."

In order to realize his vision, Shaheen requested the help of two master sculptors he had worked with in Italy, Marcello Sennati and Ampelio Rinaldi. Shaheen created two models in clay, which artist Giorgio Atzori made a plaster cast from, and then the three went to work. Together, they took blocks of marble and worked the images of a burdened woman, stuck in the stone, in one, and a hopeful man, breaking out of the stone, in the other. The burdened woman symbolizes loss; the man symbolizes renewed strength.

"The marble blocks were a little out of square, so we first squared them by hand after they were stacked," said Shaheen. "The work was pretty straightforward. It also worked out that there wasn't a hard vein in the stone for the faces. We used a light sand for the marble, because high gloss darkens the veins."

Regent Stone Products, Inc., of Virginia Beach, VA. gave The Memoria Project three Metabo angle grinders and accessories, sanding discs and abrasive discs. Semcor Equipment Corp. of Keyport, NJ, donated the air compressor and Ricci Tool & Dye Co. of Long Branch, NJ, supplied a table grinder and custom-made sledgehammer. Grainger Inc. of Eatontown, NJ gave the project sand paper, an air pistol with abrasive heads and work gloves at cost.

"It was at first difficult to get everything to happen in New Jersey with bringing together the sculpture laboratory with tubing, a compressor and tools," said Shaheen.

But with the volunteer work of concerned citizens and donations, the process was pulled together nicely.

The design of the memorial also uses Virginia Mist granite. The material, supplied by the Stone Vogue/ Virginia Mist Group, Inc., of Culpeper, VA, was also donated. As he did with the marble, Shaheen also went to the Virginia quarry to select which blocks would be suitable for use, all approximately 7 feet long.

Five granite blocks ring around the two marble statues, with the interior faces cut, polished and inscribed with the names of all September 11 victims. The names were done with a rubber stencil mask, then sandblasted in.

"The vision with the white marble coming out of the dark granite was that of the phoenix rising from the ashes," explained Evan Urbania, the executive director for The Memoria Project.

The five black granite blocks also symbolize the Pentagon and draw the viewer's attention to the names and figures within the concentric area it provides.

Though it doesn't have a permanent position yet, the sculpture will be coordinated with the landscape and solar patterns of the space in which it is placed.


The Memoria Project, Sandy Hook, NJ

Sculptors: Stephen Shaheen, Rumson,
NJ; Ampelio Rinaldi, Italy;
Marcello Sennati, Italy
Stone Suppliers: Vermont Quarries,
Inc., Rutland, VT (marble), Stone
Vogue/ Virginia Mist Group, Inc.,
Culpeper, VA (granite)
Tool Suppliers: Regent Stone Products,
Inc., Virginia Beach, VA; Semcor
Equipment Corp., Keyport, NJ;
Ricci Tool & Dye Co., Long Branch,
NJ; Grainger, Inc., Eatontown, NJ

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