Mountain Home Fire Fighter Tommy Feliccia unveiled Mountain Home’s new 9/11 Memorial during the North Central Arkansas Veterans Council’s Annual Memorial Day Commemoration at Veterans Plaza in Mountain Home.
The memorial came about after Feliccia worked with his uncle, retired FDNY Captain Joseph Russo, to present Mountain Home with a 50-pound piece of steel on behalf of the FDNY during last year’s 9/11 ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the single largest terrorist attack on the United States.
The memorial, which is now on display in Veteran’s Plaza, was built by Bill and Jenn Wikoff of Concrete Living in Springfield, Illinois. The design for the memorial is based on a sketch by Feliccia.
“This memorial is the only one in North Central Arkansas,” said Feliccia while dedicating the monument to Mountain Home. “The memorial to the left of the stage, which will be unveiled shortly, is the symbolism of the things the terrorists attempted to destroy. The Twin Towers was our economic power. The Pentagon was our military power, and the U.S. Capitol was our government.”
This year’s ceremony began with the presentation of colors by the American Legion Post 5, American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, Captain Nathan Watkins Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Disabled American Veterans Chapter #30, Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary Unit #30, Fleet Reserve Association Branch 251, Fleet Reserve Association Auxiliary, United States Submarine Veterans – Twin Lakes Base, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3246, Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary, Sons of the Confederate Veterans 27th Infantry Camp 1519, and the Chivalry Commandery #38 of Knights Templars.
Also in attendance were Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams, Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass, Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery, and State Representative Nelda Speaks.
Various first responders from Baxter County, including Mountain Home Police Chief Eddie Griffin and Mountain Home Fire Chief Kris Quick, also attended.
The keynote speaker for this year’s Memorial Day Commemoration was Mary Walker, a retired Lieutenant Commander with the U.S. Army.
“Our veterans and the veterans elsewhere in this world have displayed honor, courage, selflessness, and duty as they fought against tyranny,” said Walker. “We need to recognize their sacrifices. Freedom is not free. It comes at a cost. A grave cost. I am sure that many of you here today have suffered the effects of war. The physical and emotional scars stay with us for a long time, sometimes our entire lives. However, we must not forget, we must not be complacent. We must recognize that our freedoms are constantly being attacked and challenged. Today’s world is no exception.”
The memorial features a piece of steel from the Twin Towers suspended between two 6-foot-tall concrete pillars designed to look like the Twin Towers. The foot of the base features the words “Never Forget,” while the date of the attacks is displayed on the side of the memorial. The memorial also includes a silhouette of the Pentagon and the number 93 to represent flight United 93.
A small memorial to Vincent “Vinny” Feliccia, Russo’s brother-in-law and former New York City firefighter, has been etched into one of the towers. It is mirrored by a dedication honoring Russo’s contribution to the memorial.
A plaque with information pertaining to the events of 9/11 is now also on display.
“It’s hard to find the words to describe the feeling that came over me, observing the total destruction that was covering many multiple city blocks,” said Russo during his 9/11 Memorial Speech last year. “I had driven out of these streets earlier in the day, and everything looked normal. What I now observed was a moonscape of twisted steel, pulverized concrete, smoke, dust, and the smell of burning fuel.”
Altogether, almost 3,000 people were killed during the attacks of 9/11. Of those who died, 2,606 were from the World Trade Center alone, with an additional 125 being killed at the Pentagon. Two hundred and fifty-six people were killed aboard the hijacked planes that morning.
The remaining 470 deaths belonged to first responders and members of the military. Three hundred forty-three firefighters and 72 police officers died after the Twin Towers collapsed in New York City. Fifty-five members of the armed service would die after the third plane struck the side of the Pentagon.
More than 256 firefighters have died from their exposure to ground zero.
“The dust created when the towers collapsed covered every person and every surface, in some places with several feet thick,” Russo said when announcing the creation of Mountain Home’s 9/11 Memorial last year. “As I entered the site, an EMT handed me a filter mask and insisted that I keep it on as much as possible. I owe that EMT a debt of gratitude.”
Russo was a dedicated firefighter who lost many of his good friends on that September morning. While he was here in Mountain Home last year, Russo wanted to make sure that his friends and brothers were remembered as the heroes of that day.
He insisted that their names be listed in dedication to their heroism.
Before the collapse of the Twin Towers, Orio J. Palmer discovered that one of the radio repeaters that allowed firefighters to communicate over long distances was not functioning after being ordered to surveil the South Tower.
In the chaos of that moment, Palmer fixed the repeater before turning his attention to those trapped in the lobby elevator.
As a trained elevator mechanic, Palmer got the elevator moving again, freeing those trapped inside before riding it to the 41st floor, where he began helping the injured. He would reach the 78th floor of the tower before it collapsed.
While in the tower, he was heard giving regular reports across the radio before going silent for the last time.
Louis Arena and Robert Curatolo, two probationary firefighters who were personally trained by Russo.
Joseph J. Angelini Sr., who died alongside his son Joseph Angelini Jr. while attempting to help those inside the Twin Towers.
Frank Palombo, a father to 10 orphans.
Timothy Stackpole, who donned his suit for the last time and headed into the smoking building despite being injured from a previous fire.
Terence Hatton, whose wife did not discover that she was pregnant until his wake.
Daniel J. Brethel, who trained Russo as a captain.
Captain Patrick Brown, one of the FDNY’s most renowned firefighters.
Ronald Bucca, who climbed to the 78th floor of the South Tower only using the stairs.
Brothers Harvey L. Harrell and Stephen G. Harrel died together during the towers collapse.
New York City also lost brothers Thomas T. Haskell and Timothy Haskell to the falling steel and concrete of the World Trade Center.
The Vigiano family lost their two sons, John Vigiano Jr., a firefighter, and Joe Vigiano, an officer with the NYPD.
Daniel Libretti, a firefighter and part-time pastry chef, worked in some of the best restaurants in New York City before his death on September 11.
Daniel T. Suhr, the first firefighter to be killed at ground zero after being struck by a jumper.
John M. Moran, a man with “movie-star looks,” who had just begun his career as an attorney before making his final sacrifice that day.