Excerpts from letter of Joey Drew of Westwood published in August 7, 2002 Pascack Valley Community Life:
I am a long-time resident of Westwood who has volunteered many hours for the well-being of my wonderful town. I am not happy with the plans to put up an elaborate memorial for the World Trade disaster.
Why do people feel we have to ornately display our sadness or our patriotism? Isn’t the showing of our magnificent flag enough to show the world we will uphold our American principles and cherish our freedom? All the monuments going up all over Bergen County for “heroes of 9/11” astound me. These poor people were murder victims, not heroes.
Our Veterans’ Park should be kept that—a Veterans’ Park. We have two memorials recording the names of those who died for their country—men and women who defended with their lives the rights we hold dear. I feel that this new lavish memorial will diminish their symbolism.
Reading the description of the proposed memorial with the red, white and blue path, with the etched names of donors who contributed money, screams of poor taste. This certainly doesn’t belong in the center of a town which always had such dignity. A scaled down plaque doesn’t cost money and it would accomplish the same end …
Excerpts from letter of Lynn Lomer of Westwood published in August 14, 2002 Pascack Valley Community Life:
I read with disappointment several letters in the past few editions of the … Community Life chastising Joseph Oettinger for his letter regarding a 9/11 memorial in Westwood’s Veterans’ Memorial Park. These people are missing the point of Mr. Oettinger’s letter … Veterans’ Memorial Park was designed to salute those fallen soldiers who knowingly and wittingly put their lives on the line in both times of peace and war to defend this nation and its citizens.
Nobody is disputing that what happened on 9/11 was one of the greatest tragedies this nation has ever witnessed. On that day, ordinary people performed extraordinary acts in the face of great adversity. Heroes were made that day. However, these people were going to work, not to defend their nation, but to earn a living like each of us does every day. This was a work tragedy of epic proportions.
Should there be a memorial for the four Westwood residents? Yes. Should it be in Veterans’ Memorial Park? No. A better location would be the Kinderkamack/Westwood Avenue intersection where the fireman’s statue proudly stands …
I wrote it was with great disappointment that I’ve read these letters of opposition to Mr. Oettinger because it shows, once again, the lack of respect this nation has as a whole for the men and women in the military who sacrifice much, including their lives, to serve their country … I’ve had to attend funerals for friends in the military and as an officer’s wife, I’ve had to participate in memorial services for soldiers who died in training, so it saddens me that people are missing the point …
Excerpts from letter of Roy G. Jones of Westwood published in August 28, 2002 Pascack Press:
As a long-time Westwood resident, I feel just as protective of our Veterans’ Park as Manhattanites do for their Central Park …
The thought of giving up all of the grass space needed to build a 9/11 remembrance in our tiny Veterans’ Park is bad enough, but the idea of surrounding it with a path of red, white and blue paving stones is appalling.
If there absolutely has to be something (won’t the coming one, which is bound to be very impressive, at Ground Zero be the answer?) then make up a suitable plaque and affix it to a wall of the station, or to a column of the bandstand, or on a stone or a plinth in the middle of that circular grove of trees in the southern part close to Park Avenue …
Excerpts from letter of Joseph Oettinger, Jr. of Westwood published in November 13, 2002 Pascack Press:
…On October 17, 2002, the Sept. 11 Memorial Committee meeting was attended by two guests who are members of Westwood’s Ralph W. Lester VFW Post No. 130. In their opening statements, each of these two gentlemen expressed opposition to the Committee’s proposal to build a 9/11 Memorial in Veterans’ Memorial Park.
The Committee took the position that Veterans’ Memorial Park is “just a name,” and that many different activities take place in the park. The committee further articulated that Veterans’ Memorial Park does not belong to the veterans, but to the Borough of Westwood.
After the two guest VFW members left the meeting, I inquired if anyone knew how Veterans’ Memorial Park got its name … There was some discussion of the matter, but nobody seemed to know the answer …
…the Sept. 11 Committee says Veterans’ Memorial Park does not belong to the veterans. But then, does Veterans’ Memorial Park belong to the Sept. 11 Committee?
Excerpts from Article by Juliana Hendriks entitled “Sept. 11 Memorial plans move forward,” published in December 11, 2002 Pascack Press:
WESTWOOD – With Mayor Skip Kelley [a member of the Sept. 11 Memorial Committee, and a $9,000 donor to the same committee] casting a tie-breaking vote, plans for a monument honoring the victims of Sept. 11, 2001 were written in stone at the Nov. 26 Borough Council meeting.
By a vote of 3-2-1, the council passed a resolution authorizing placement of the memorial in Veterans’ Park, just south of the train station. The vote came after resident Joseph Oettinger Jr. voiced his opposition to the monument during the public forum portion of the meeting.
Calling the monument a “blatant violation of what this park is all about,” Oettinger cited excerpts from a speech made by [Mrs.] W. F. McKenzie at a 1922 dedication ceremony of World War I veterans’ monument [and from a 1949 Mayor and Council resolution changing the park’s name to “Veterans’ Memorial Park.”] …
“The name [Veterans’ Memorial Park] didn’t just come about accidentally,” he said. “The entire park is a living memorial to the veterans of World War II.” …
Council President Peter Grefrath abstained from voting. As a member of the Sept. 11 Memorial Committee, he felt it would be improper for him to participate in the vote.
Excerpts from letter of Jim Burton of Westwood published in March 5, 2003 Pascack Press:
The following essay could be a veteran’s argument why a memorial to the victims of 9/11 should not be placed in Westwood’s Veterans’ Memorial Park.
By Rush Limbaugh
“I think the vast differences in compensation between victims of the Sept. 11 casualty and those who die serving the country in uniform are profound. No one is really talking about it either, because you just don’t criticize anything having to do with Sept. 11.
…If you lost a family member in the Sept. 11 attack, you’re going to get an average of $1,185,000. The range is a minimum guarantee of $250,000, all the way up to $4.7 million.
If you are a surviving family member of an American soldier killed in action, the first check you get is a $6,000 direct death benefit, half of which is taxable. Next, you get $1,750 for burial costs. If you are the surviving spouse, you get $833 a month until you remarry. And there’s a payment of $211 per month for each child under 18. When the child hits 18, those payments come to a screeching halt.
Keep in mind that some of the people who are getting an average of $1.185 million up to $4.7 million are complaining that it’s not enough …
Every time a pay raise comes up for the military, they usually receive next to nothing of a raise. Now the green machine is in combat in the Middle East while their families have to survive on food stamps and live in low-rent housing …”
The point this essay makes for me is that veterans are willingly stepping in harm’s way, and often get little gratitude in return.
If I were being shipped out to the Middle East, I’d like to think leaving my family and stepping into harm’s way is appreciated by the American people.
Maybe Veterans’ Park should be an exclusive sanctuary in their behalf.
Excerpts from letter of Tom Lagatol Sr. of Westwood published in March 19, 2003 Pascack Press:
Over the past months, there have been a number of letters to the editor, pertaining to the placement-location of the Sept. 11 structure. The people writing these letters represent many others also dedicated in their effort to keep Veterans’ Memorial Park used for the purpose for which it was intended …
Unfortunately, their efforts have fallen on the deaf ears of the Sept. 11 committee. Their [the Sept. 11 committee’s] attitude is that the park does not belong to the veterans and that they are entitled to use it just as much as the veterans.
It is not appropriate for them to design a structure for the purpose of overshadowing the veterans’ monuments …
Excerpts from letter of Joseph Oettinger, Jr. of Westwood published in June 30, 2004 Pascack Press:
Westwood is not “ground zero.” And Veterans’ Memorial Park is no place for a structure that demoralizes a community. After all, the park’s purpose is to provide inspiration, not to generate sadness and dismay.
But we live in an imperfect world. And so, a private group has been allowed to desecrate Veterans’ Memorial Park with the construction of a terror memorial near the railroad tracks. In its enthusiasm to draw attention to a national embarrassment, the group has demonstrated poor judgment and a general lack of circumspection.
The very existence of such an exhibit is painful to people of good will who choose not to be subjected to overt reminders of the worst of humanity. The exhibit, by its focus and design, confirms and acknowledges the evil acts of a terrorist organization; it will continue to do so until it is dismantled and removed. Such an exhibit does not belong in a public park— not in this republic.
The structure is surrounded by a red, white and blue walkway that suggests a festive presentation. But don’t be misled.
The centerpiece of the structure is a Japanese lace-leaf maple tree, symbolizing death from the sky, which hovers above a circular granite stone wall. The species of the tree reminds the observer of the terrible surprise air attack that occurred at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Allusions to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks inscribed in the exhibit’s wall and walkway remind the observer of history’s ability to repeat itself.
The benches placed about the structure are conspicuously gratuitous. The negative symbolism emanating from the exhibit fills the observer with a sense of foreboding that quells any desire to linger in its proximity.
The Westwood terror memorial is especially insensitive to rail commuters, who constitute a captive audience. For some folks on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the car that carries these passengers—was an iron hearse.