LOWER MAKEFIELD >> The Garden of Reflection Endowment Fund Committee is asking for the community’s help in preserving the 9-11 Memorial on Woodside Road in perpetuity.
And as an incentive, nationally-syndicated TV and radio host Michael Smerconish and Jim McCaffrey, the President and CEO of McCaffrey’s Market, have stepped forward and agreed to match any one-time gift from a corporation, business, group or individual made out to the "Remembrance Fund.”
Smerconish and McCaffrey are members of the 9-11 Memorial Garden of Reflection board, a non-profit established to oversee and protect The Garden. They have each agreed, along with their spouses, to match up to $25,000 in donations made to the Remembrance Fund.
“We started fundraising for the endowment so the maintenance of the garden wouldn’t be at taxpayer expense, so that there would always be a steady stream of money coming in because it’s a living memorial. It’s going to require care,” said 9-11 widow Ellen Saracini.
“We are ecstatic to say that we have already raised more than $1.8 million,” Saracini continued. “With your help, we will meet our $2 million goal.”
With the incentive from Smerconish and McCaffrey, the endowment committee is hoping to reach its goal by the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks this September.
Once fully funded, the endowment will provide for the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of The Garden in perpetuity, ensuring that future generations will enjoy the memorial for years to come.
“The Garden of Reflection is the one place I take visitors to because of its beauty and meaningful representations of that horrific day,” said Smerconish. “Lavinia and I are excited to be able to match gifts to the Remembrance Fund between now and September 11, 2021 to provide for the perpetual care of The Garden.”
Added McCaffrey, “The Garden has always been near and dear to me. Especially in these difficult times, Lisa and I are excited to be able to match gifts to the Remembrance Fund to provide for the perpetual care of this very meaningful memorial. It's great to know that this endowment will allow The Garden of Reflection to continue long after we are all gone.”
“We feel very fortunate to have such staunch supporters as Michael and Lavinia Smerconish and Jim and Lisa McCaffrey,” said Saracini. “Their offer and these matching grants will ensure the Garden remains a beacon of hope in perpetuity.”
As an additional incentive, the names of corporations, businesses, groups, families and individuals who donate $2,500 or more will be etched on a plaque that will be added to the garden memorial.
“Your support honors the memory of the thousands that perished on that tragic day, and will preserve the historic significance of the memorial in perpetuity,” said Saracini.
Among the names included on the new plaque will be Steven Singer who designed and sold a 9-11 pin to benefit the garden. This year he will be updating the pin to mark the 20th anniversary. To date, Singer has donated $186,000 to the Garden of Reflection.
“I always tell him, ‘Everyone says they hate Steven Singer. But at the Garden of Reflection, we love Steven Singer,’” said Saracini.
According to Saracini, the Garden was created in the wake of the 9-11 terror attacks in New York City, the Pentagon and in western Pennsylvania “as a place to find light in the darkness.
“It was meant to be a place of respite, peace and reflection after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but has now become much more,” she said. “As Pennsylvania’s state 9/11 memorial and the gathering location whenever tragedy strikes our area or our nation, The Garden is a beacon of light and its purpose has grown and evolved.”
In recent years, the garden has become a local gathering point during national triumphs, including the death of Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, and national and local tragedies, like the death of George Floyd in May 2020 and the horrific slaying of four Bucks County boys in 2017.
“This place is more than just a 9-11 memorial,” said Saracini. “It is a peaceful place where people love to come for all of the issues that develop in their family, whether it be a national tragedy or a personal loss. They come to the garden because it is so peaceful.”
The garden is also the site of local 9-11 Remembrance ceremonies held every September 11th. That was the day in 2001 that terrorists hijacked airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a field in western Pennsylvania.
More than 2,900 lives were taken that day, including 18 from Bucks County and nine from Lower Makefield, the Pennsylvania county that suffered the highest loss of life that day.
Local Yardley architect Liuba Lashchyk, AIA, designed The 9-11 Garden of Reflection as a gathering place, which invites the public on a contemplative journey of Remembrance, Reflection and Healing. Liuba eloquently spoke of the Memorial Journey at the dedication ceremony on the 5th anniversary.
“As you enter The Garden of Reflection through a tear-shaped plaza, you re-live that dark day as you encounter a stark sculpture made of steel remnants from the World Trade Center, then continue on a path along the Remembrance Walk where the names of all 2,977 of our loved ones are etched in glass. This expanse of victim’s names stands as a powerful testimony of the magnitude of the loss,” she said.
“The path takes you from those reminders of sorrow and grief to luminous symbols of hope, peace and celebration of life at the heart of the memorial, where dual fountains in an illuminated circular pool rise into the air, a metaphor for the twin towers and the soaring spirit of the victims.
“On the outer perimeter of The Garden and representing the eighteen victims from Bucks County, stand 18 majestic maple trees along a walkway with 42 small lights looking up to the heavens symbolizing the 42 children in Pennsylvania who lost a parent that day,” she said. “Our mission was to create a lasting place of beauty where all could come to reflect and hopefully heal our wounds.”
Saracini said Lashchyk was able to take a tragedy and turn it into a place of peaceful contemplation and reflection. “When you walk out, you feel better than when you walked in. How better of a place could there be than that,” she said. “Now we need the community to step forward and help us reach our goal and preserve this very special place in perpetuity.”
Since there are no paid staff, 100 percent of every donation received goes to the Remembrance Fund. Tax-deductible donation can be mailed to Garden of Reflection, 1460 Heather Circle, Yardley, PA, 19067or you can donate at https://www.9-11memorialgarden.org/donate/.
“Please give generously knowing that your gift will be tripled and have a lasting effect so that we keep our promise to never forget,” said Saracini.