October 22, 2021

Coins commemorate Cortland’s 911 memorial

Travis Dunn/contributing photographer

Cortland Police Deputy Chief Paul Sandy displays a newly-designed challenge coin commemorating the city's 9/11 memorial as officer Jesse Abbott looks on.

Cortland Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy and Community Police Officer Jesse Abbott are selling coins, just bigger than an Eisenhower silver dollar, with two purposes — raise funds to maintain the city’s 911 memorial and create a token commemorating the unveiling of the structure.

The challenge coin features a face with two shadows in front of the U.S. flag. The back has an image of the 911 memorial.

“It’s just a way of raising a little extra money for the 911 foundation so we can maintain it,” Sandy said.

The idea behind the challenge coin comes from an evolving tradition in law enforcement. “Challenge coins started with the military and then it was adopted over the years by law enforcement,” Sandy said. “It’s been going on for the last 20 years or at least the last 15.”

How to get one

People interested in purchasing a coin and supporting the memorial can contact Paul Sandy at psandy@cortland.org or Jesse Abbott at jabbott@cortland.org.


Police collect coins from different agencies, slowly replacing collections of patches, Abbott said.

“It’s become kind of a law enforcement swap,” Sandy said. “You go someplace and you’ve got coins, then you swap them.”

A board at the city police station has around 150 coins from different agencies on it, and Sandy has a collection in his office, too.

The coins have been around six months in the making, Abbott said. The front face of the coin, shown here, has the words “Cortland will never forget.” The date, 9/11/18, is underneath — it’s the date Cortland unveiled its memorial.

“The significance behind that is it’s 17 years later and we have not forgotten the tragedy or the sacrifices people made during this,” Sandy said.

Sandy and Abbott have sold almost 50 coins. Each costs $10. Around $4 goes back to the memorial fund.

The memorial features a metal sculpture representing the twin towers, a base in the shape of a pentagon to represent the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a bronze plaque in the outline of Pennsylvania, signifying the site where a plane crashed as passengers fought hijackers.

The idea for the monument came up in conversation a year ago at the city police’s annual bicycle auction as Abbott chatted with Sandy and former First Ward Alderwoman Michelle Mastropolo.

Around $16,000 was needed for the memorial and that amount has been raised and exceeded. Abbott said around $30,000 was raised all through donations.