This story originally appeared in the Armed Forces 2016 Festival Guide, published May 20, 2016.
The 68th annual Armed Forces Day Parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 21 in Bremerton.
There will be a special float in this year’s Armed Forces Day Parade. And many of those at the parade will recognize it.
For the past four months, students at West Sound Technical Skills Center have been crafting a replica of the 9/11 Memorial that sits at Evergreen Park in Bremerton. The replica is one-fourth the size of the original and has been put together by students in the school’s public safety, welding, construction, and collision repair classes.
The idea came from one of their instructors, Dennis Bringham, who is commander of the VFW Post 239 in Bremerton. He teaches public safety occupations at the school.
The post has an agreement with the City of Bremerton to care for the actual memorial, which consists of steel beams from the World Trade Center in New York that was attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. A group of local residents worked to bring the beams to Kitsap County and helped create the memorial, which includes hand-painted tiles made by local elementary students, and a timeline that surrounds the memorial, denoting the flights of all four planes that crashed on 9-11.
“Some of us at the VFW were talking about what we wanted to do for this year’s parade,” Bringham said. “We usually have members walk in the parade, or ride in golf carts. But we came up with the idea of creating a miniature replica of the 9/11 Memorial.”
Last year, the VFW had West Sound students re-create a 1700s-era deck cannon, which is now at home at the VFW post, he said.
“That project went so well that we decided the 9/11 Memorial would be a great one to try next,” he said. “I spoke with the other teachers and they liked the idea.”
About a dozen students were picked to work on the project and met at the site of the 9/11 Memorial where Dave Fergus, of Rice Fergus Miller Architects told them about the creation of the memorial. That firm designed the 9/11 Memorial at Evergreen Park.
“Students measured the original memorial and we took pictures of it, so that we could come back to school and re-design it at one-quarter the size,” Bringham said.
The replica is an exact replica, and even shows the concrete that is attached to the original in the exact locations as on it. The students weren’t able to find beams that were the needed size, so they made them, and welding students worked to bend them to match the original. One beam on the float weighs 25 pounds and the other weighs 30 pounds. Collision repair students were in charge of painting the model. The replica includes tiny tiles that were painted by a collision repair student and match those at the 9/11 Memorial in Evergreen Park.
There’s even a flag and a plaque attached to it, and the circles around the base match the flight routes that are on the original memorial. And don’t miss the white dots around it which denote the spotlights at the original memorial.
“The students have really been excited about working on this project,” Bringham said. “Every bolt that is in the original has been fabricated to scale and is on the replica.”
The replica memorial will be carried on a flatbed truck and will travel the route of the Armed Forces Day Parade on May 21. Bringham will organize students and VFW members to stand on a specific block along the route. They plan to hand out flyers that tell about the memorial they created and the original one.
Shani Watkins, director at West Sound Tech, said the project is one that she supported from the very beginning.
“I strongly believe that the students here need to give back to the community,” she said. “Through this project they are, and they are learning to work with other departments which is just what they’ll have to do in the real world, once they are employed.”
She said the project has taught them responsibility, leadership and how to collaborate with others.
Conner Ellis, 19, a student in the collision repair program at West Sound Tech, said working on the 9/11 Memorial replica was very meaningful to him.
“I was only 4 years old when 9-11 happened,” he said. “My babysitter watched it and was crying. I didn’t understand.
“But as I grew up, I came to see how tragic that one day was. Helping to create this replica is a way to remember what happened on that day. And it’s an experience that I won’t forget.”