October 23, 2021

Bricks laid at 9/11 site in Courthouse Park, more to come

In memory of...

Shenandoah Briere/contributing photographer

Cortland City Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy and City Community Police Officer Jesse Abbott install plaques at the 9/11 Memorial in Courthouse Park. File photo from July 2019.

Lou Alvarez and James Molloy were New York City police officers, Amy King was a flight attendant and George William Morell was the vice president of a company in one of the twin towers. They lost their lives either during or as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. But bricks laid in their honor are keeping their memory alive.

“It was just something important for our family to do,” said Melissa Whidden, who lost her uncle, Morell, that day.

On Wednesday, 40 bricks were placed at the Sept. 11 Memorial site at Cortland’s Courthouse Park and two plaques were installed by Cortland Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy and Community Policing Officer Jesse Abbott.

The sculpture — which was unveiled last year, 17 years after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and created by Little York artist Tino Ferro — was an idea that originated between Sandy and Abbott in 2017.

How to buy a brick

Organizers of a 9/11 monument in the city are urging people to buy a brick in the next two weeks so the bricks can be laid before this year’s ceremony. The engraved bricks cost $100.

Go to cccops.com or see Cortland Deputy Police Chief Paul Sandy or Community Policing Officer Jesse Abbott.

The memorial features a metal sculpture representing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, 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 sculpture features pieces of the Twin Towers, including rebar, connectors to girders, plumbing and gas pipes, parts of a sprinkler system and wiring.

The paths leading to the sculpture are lined with bricks people have bought in honor of the site or memory of someone.

Whidden’s family, some of whom still reside in the county, bought a brick for Morell, the vice president of Cantor Fitzgerald. The company’s headquarters were on 101st to 105th floors of the north tower. Morell worked on the 105th floors, only a few floors above the impact zone.

“He was just a very big part of our family,” Whidden said. “He was the most outgoing person I met in my life. He made a friend everywhere he went. We always said he collected friends, that was his thing.”

“To Amy with love” reads the brick Danielle Binns bought to honor King, a flight attendant on Flight 175, which crashed into the south tower.

Binns lives in Syracuse, but works for TLC Emergency Medical Services and went to SUNY Cortland. Binns said King was a “kind person who loved everybody.”

“She would make sure I got on the bus OK every day,” said Binns, who grew up in a small town near Jamestown. “I was just a little girl at the bus stop, yes my parent knew her parents, but I was little girl at the bus stop and she didn’t have to do that. We lost one of the kindest people in our community.”

Legislator Paul Heider (R-Cuyler Solon, Truxton) and his wife bought two bricks, one for Alvarez and one for Malloy. Alvarez was a retired New York police detective who spent months digging through the rubble during rescue and recovery efforts and then became an advocate for benefits for victims and first responders. He died in June from cancer related to 9/11.

Malloy was Heider’s supervisor when he was on the robbery squad in the city’s police department.

Heider retired from the police department two months before the attacks. He also bought the bricks to remember the many first responders and victims.

“There’s a lot of folks here that have been directly affected by 9/11,” he said. He said the memorial site allows them a place to remember them, contemplate and pray.

Abbott said for this year’s ceremony he’s looking to touch more on those local connections.

“There are so many others,” he said. “From what I understand, there’s eight alumni from SUNY Cortland that perished.”

He wants to make sure that none of those names are ever forgotten.

“What I would like to do and depending on finances, is have enlarged photos of the people around the memorial, so people can put a face to the name,” he said.

“I think it’s so incredible that Cortland constructed this site in honor of 9/11,” Whidden said. “It certainly means a lot to me, my immediate family and my extended family.”