Walkabout: Brooklyn’s Wall of Remembrance

On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 we are reminded that buildings are only the physical manifestation of a neighborhood, or a borough. It’s the people who live and work here who matter, and those who help better the human condition are the reason why. Here is a story about someone who made a difference in Brooklyn.

Life-long Brooklynite and perpetual Brooklyn Dodgers fan Sol Moglen wanted to dedicate a wall of Keyspan Park to his heroes, the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. The Park is home field for the Brooklyn Cyclones baseball team. Everything was set up for the tribute, a foundation and funds were established, the rights to use the wall were acquired — and then 9/11/2001 happened. Sol was touched to learn that over a third of the first responders who died that day lived in, were born in or worked in Brooklyn. He wanted to have a tribute to those brave firefighters, police officers and EMTs who gave their lives for the city – and he had this wall…

Long story short, he gathered a diverse group of friends, business people, politicians, celebrities, first responders and artists, who all donated their time, money and talents towards building the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance on an exterior wall of the Keyspan ball park, only yards away from the boardwalk at Coney Island.

All of the fallen, a list which now includes all 417 first responders who died, as well as Sirus, a K-9 Rescue dog, are depicted by portraits on individual bronze plaques. A six-foot bronze relief of two firefighters holding the helmet of a third ties the memorial together, and the Wall has been an appreciated and comforting source of solace, especially for those families whose loved ones were never found. Now funds are being raised to turn part of the surrounding parking lot into a permanent green park.

Sol Moglen, his family, executive board, actors Gary Sinese and Jon Voight, local politicians, and a host of volunteers, fundraisers and donors, have created something good in Brooklyn, a place to honor those who rushed forward to give their lives that day, so the activities that take place around this memorial — Coney Island, the Cyclones, the Boardwalk and the beach, the laughter of children, and the cry of “Play ball!” — can continue. Please check the website, learn more about this project, and visit the next time you are at Coney Island. GMAP

(Originally published 12/31/09)

Update: Keyspan Park is now MCU Park. In the five or more years since the Wall was finished, it continues to comfort those who have lost family and friends, and inspire visitors and passers-by. There is now a book, “The Fallen Heroes of September 11th,” beautifully conceptualized by graphic artist Debra Jackson, a Wall of Remembrance board member, with photographs of everyone who played their part in creating it. There are separate chapters with photographs of all of the granite portraits, with names, dates and affiliations of all of those first responders who died that day, a herculean task of assembling photographs, names, and departments and organizations. The text of the book, the story of the Wall and its creation, was written by me, a project I was most honored to be a part of.

Academy Award-winning actor Gary Sinese has been a major sponsor and contributor to the Wall of Remembrance. He gave a concert to raise money for completing the Wall (he’s got a great rock band), and last year he returned to Coney Island to shoot the first episode of the season of his television show, CSI New York, using the Wall as the location of a tribute to the first responders of 9/11. That episode was one of the show’s top-rated pieces, and the Wall received orders for books and donations, enabling the work of the foundation to continue.

Please check the website thebrooklynwall.org if you’d like to order a book or just find out more information. All donations go to funding the upkeep of the Wall of Remembrance, and to cover postage and other expenses. You can also “like” it on Facebook.

(All photos by Butch Moran)