By Alexander Dworkowitz
Like many New Yorkers, Charles Helly was left with the overwhelming feeling that he needed to do something after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
The general manager of the Flushing Cemetery, Helly had the idea of creating a memorial of the event.
“I just really wanted a place for people to come to and pay their respects,” he said.
Helly presented the idea to the cemetery’s board of directors in October.
On Dec. 12, the memorial was unveiled.
“America has risen to defend freedom and defeat terrorism,” the memorial reads. “May our friendship of love give strength to our democracy.”
Helly, who lost his niece in the terrorist attack, keeps a newspaper clipping of her death at his desk and learned that her remains were found just after the memorial was built.
To his knowledge, it is the only such memorial in Queens.
The structure is across from the gothic fountain near the center of the Flushing Cemetery, which can be entered at 46th Avenue and 162nd Street.
At the center of the monument is a 7-foot black granite slab. Employees at Donald Denigris, a Bronx monument dealer, used diamonds to hand etch a rendering of the Twin Towers.
The memorial also has two granite wings. The west wing contains a dedication to those who lost their lives in the collapse of the Twin Towers. The east wing contains a dedication to both living and dead rescuers.
Flowers have been placed on the memorial since it first was installed. At first, mourners on their way to other areas of the cemetery were responsible for most of the flowers, but as word of the memorial has spread people have traveled to the cemetery with the express purpose of seeing the monument.
A toy fire truck and police car have been placed on the memorial.
Edward Michalec, a photographer for the cemetery and a resident of Whitestone, said the memorial has resonated strongly with visitors. “There were a few women walking away from paying their respects to their family, and they looked, saw it and bowed their heads with emotion,” he said.
Michalec said he had observed a man take a seat at one of the benches in front of the memorial and compose a poem.
The photographer praised the administration of the cemetery for building the memorial for the benefit of all of Queens.
“I think it’s one of the most fantastic as well as the most genuine efforts made by the Flushing Cemetery,” he said.
Like Michalec, Helly said the memorial has evoked a powerful response.
“We’ve had people crying on the phone, thanking us for giving them a place to go.”
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.