After retired firefighter Ed Gruetzner lost 32 of his firefighter comrades in the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center collapse, he wondered how to build a fitting memorial. He had retired from the New York City Fire Department just four months before that fateful day.
Gruetzner, who has been a decorative concrete installer in White Plains, N.Y., the past five years, bounced the subject off of Mike Eastergate, owner of PreiTech Corp., a form manufacturer in Evans, Ga., and a supporter of the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program. “I said, ‘I'd love to do a project,' and Mike said, ‘I'm with you,'” Gruetzner explained.
The CIM programs at California State University–Chico and Middle Tennessee State University got involved, and the result came together in a memorial at World of Concrete's Artistry in Concrete. Gruetzner and Eastergate worked with CIM students from both schools to precast panels and assemble structures that represented the twin buildings.
A simple, evocative design was agreed upon. Two simple vertical forms representing the silhouette of the twin towers reflect light on a faceted surface. Inscribed on the panels are the names of firefighters from Ladder 4, Engine 54, and Battalion 9, located at 48th Street and 8th Avenue, who perished that day.
Students at each school worked on the concrete mix and created sample panels before World of Concrete. At the show, they performed all of the concrete work, including, forming, mixing, placing, and erecting the completed panels. Students sprayed each mold with a hopper gun using a mix of cement and finely graded silica sand, and then filled the molds with glass-fiber reinforced concrete. Their work will be reassembled in a park across from the fire station as a permanent memorial.
If this project is any indication, artistry has a bright future in this industry. “Decorative concrete is a new offering in the CIM programs at California State University–Chico and Middle Tennessee State University,” says Tanya Wattenburg Komas, director/program coordinator at California State University–Chico. “The course has been very popular with the students because it offers a rich blend of technical knowledge and creative development in a semester-long, hands-on environment. This project offers a wonderful opportunity for both schools to work together on a uniquely special project.”
New York City Fire Capt. Tom Vinditto thanked the students and all involved as he accepted the memorial after it was completed. He is a member of Engine 54, for whom the monument was dedicated.