Spirit of 9/11 sculpture

Spirit of 9/11 sculpture

 Spirit of 9/11 sculpture unveiled in Bloomfield
The work, created by Gregory Perillo, hails the bond sports creates between parents, children
Sunday, September 11, 2005

A steel and bronze sculpture that captures the bond formed through sports between a father and his children was unveiled yesterday on the grounds of the Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomfield, where it will remain as a dedication to Staten Island's 270 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"My dad was my coach ever since I was 5," said Norma Jean Margiotta, whose father, a firefighter and her devoted soccer, softball and basketball coach, Lt. Charles Joseph Margiotta, died in the attacks. "He was the main reason why I enjoy sports, because he taught me to play everything I play."

Pointing to the bronze little girl in a soccer uniform towering above her, the 17-year-old from Westerleigh added, "I was a little soccer player just like that." She now tucks her father's picture into her shin guard during every soccer game, she said.

The idea for a 9/11 memorial that conveys such a bond was conceived by Robert J. Johnson III, president of the United Sports Alliance of Staten Island, a non-profit formed in the wake of the attacks.
"Everyone was connected at some time to youth sports, whether you were a parent, a friend, a coach, a player, a fan, umpire, referee ... you were there," said Johnson to a crowd of more than 200 Islanders, including members of virtually every borough youth sports league.
Speaking of the memorial, called Spirit of 9/11, he said, "This is representative of the time and the effort they gave to our community. We can give something back to them."
To raise the money for the sculpture, Johnson and the executive board of the alliance made patches for children's uniforms. "Four years later, we made it," he said, proudly announcing that the patches were worn by 18,000 Staten Island children.
Just as difficult as the fund-raising was finding the artist who could tap into the sentiment, Johnson told his audience. His hope was nearly lost, until he met Tottenville artist Gregory Perillo, whose vision fit his idea like a well-worn baseball glove.
Perillo recalled his early creative process to the crowd at yesterday's ceremony. "I thought about three words: The past, the memory and the future" he said.
Symbolizing the past is the sculpture's backdrop, the infamous image of one of the tower's skeletons. The element of memory is captured in the names of the fallen Islanders, engraved at the sculpture's base. And the soccer-playing daughter and son, wearing a baseball uniform, are the future, explained Perillo, adding that the son hands his father a game ball as if to say, "We are the future, and you will not be forgotten."

During an emotional unveiling, many family members of victims cried as 12-year-old Briana Buttermark sang, "Wind Beneath My Wings." A breeze swept in, jostling leaves from the trees and causing them to float past the sculpture, as if on cue.
Encircling the sculpture on the ground are paving stones with engraved messages like "I love ya bro," "God Bless The USA," and "Our beloved son-in-law, miss U."
Many donated products and services to the project, including its engraving, paving stones, transportation and installation, and architecture and engineering.
The most significant contribution came from Richard and Lois Nicotra, who donated the land as well as an estimated $40,000 in lighting, pilings, foundation and landscaping. "He's our savior who gave us a home," said Johnson of Nicotra.
The ceremony was attended by Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Mid-Island), Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn), and Borough President James P. Molinaro.

 Heidi J Shrager / Staten Island Advance