Granite from Ground Zero used to complete 9/11 memorial at Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction

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PITTSFIELD — Sixteen years to the day, 9/11 has taken on more emotional significance for the incarcerated and staff at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction.

A 10-man inmate landscaping crew assisted by corrections officers have meticulously laid a memorial to those who perished in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. As visitors approach the jail's entrance, their eyes immediately focus on the two granite slabs recovered from the World Trade Center, upright on a cement slab, surrounded by paver bricks. They are positioned at an angle simulating the two towers that collapsed after each was blasted by hijacker-operated airliners.

Above the granite, a wooden plaque with raised, gold-colored lettering, courtesy of R.V. Marchetto Signs of Pittsfield, explaining the origins of the stones ending with "May we ..." followed by "Never" and "Forget" etched in the tower remnants.

Above the plaque, an American flag facsimile with all the names of those victims who died 16 years ago today in New York City, at the Pentagon and on Flight 93, the hijacked plan brought down by passengers in an open field in western Pennsylvania.

The just completed, well-landscaped tribute has quickly moved those who've seen it for the first time, according to Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler.

"We had one [corrections] officer say, 'It gave me goose bumps,'" Bowler recalled.

Under the Sheriff's Office landscaping program in collaboration with Berkshire Community College, the inmate-driven project was a team effort, according to Al Bianchi, assistant superintendent of program and education at the county lockup.

"The inmates were motivated as they were impacted by 9/11 like everyone else," Bianchi said.

No more so than the sheriff.

Director of security at the jail in 2001, Bowler and six other deputies headed to Ground Zero in New York City the day after 9/11 to help with recovery of bodies buried under the rubble of the twin towers.

The seven had their own brush with death, when the building they were in being used for triage and other on-site emergency services was thought to be collapsing on the afternoon of Sept. 13.

"I was talking to Tom on his cell when I heard what sounded like the building collapsing," said jail Superintendent Jack Quinn. "About 45 minutes later I heard from Tom and he was fine. That was nerve-wracking."

The jailhouse 9/11 memorial project dates back nearly five years when the Sheriff's Office obtained the two granite slabs via a World Trade Center artifact organization. They remained in storage at the jail until this spring when the inmates and staff collaborated on the memorial's design, their work commencing in early May, the finishing touches coming just days ago.

Bowler praised the craftsmanship of the inmates and guards.

"They took their time. They were very careful to get it right,' Bowler said. "It's something they are proud of and I'm proud of them."

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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