Making it happen
Two men deliver their WTC tribute
Reporter senior staff writer May 25, 2003
To this day, Stefano Simone and Tim Griffith still joke about going to Morristown that day last November, determined to track down former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
"We heard that his son was playing football there," Griffith recalled during a recent interview. "So we went there."
This was one of those last-minute decisions born out of desperation. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, Stefano had created three silver monuments, carved in the likeness of a photograph taken by Bergen Record photographer Thomas E. Franklin depicting three firefighters raising the American flag over the ruins of the World Trade Center.
In his version, Simone has sculpted the three fire fighters, flagpole, ropes and flag in silver - with only the flag colored in red, white and blue. Each plaque used 10 ounces of silver.
Simone had created them deliberately with the hope of someday giving to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor George Pataki and President George W. Bush.
But over the months going on to years, he ran into roadblock after roadblock, a bureaucratic nightmare that made him believe that he would never get to realize his dream. Simone said he had made numerous phone calls to each of the offices, only to get turned away. He reached out to area congressmen and senators in order to have them help facilitate the delivery, but to no avail.
"People just weren't listening," he recalled.
Simone is a jeweler by trade, but of a rare and rapidly vanishing breed that still creates works from scratch, and in this case, he put many hours into constructing these, and wanted to make certain there were delivered to the right people.
"I just wanted the mayor, the governor and the president to know that somebody really felt good about what they did on that day and what they did since," Simone said.
Griffith recalled coming up on the muddy football field with the former New York City mayor seated on the other side.
"We even debated climbing over the fence and going across the football field to get to him," Griffith said, laughing about it now, although recalling the intense desperation both men felt in achieving their goals.
At half time, they spotted the former mayor and ran through the mud to reach him.
"When we got to where he was, the bodyguards shooed us away three times," Griffith recalled. "Then we saw the mayor giving people autographs and we pleaded with the bodyguard to let us give him the plaque."
Wary of an attempt of Giuliani 's life, the body guards refused to allow the two men to give their gift.
"They said we could show it to the mayor," Griffith recalled. "We might be allowed to give it to him at another time. They wanted to x-ray it first. But as soon at the mayor saw it, he wanted it. He said, 'I'm taking this now.'"
It was one of those special moments in Stefano's and Griffith's lives, as they managed to fulfill a dream.
"Everybody was around him, but the mayor looked at the plaque very closely," Griffith recalled. "He was very quiet for a few minutes. You could see that he was emotionally touched."
One was not enough
Perhaps that might have been enough for most people, but Stefano and Griffith were determined to deliver the other two plaques as well, and in April, succeeded in doing just that.
Griffith, an assessor by trade, is also a member of the American Society of Appraisers, an organization that held a regional meeting in lower Manhattan this last April. This included the president of the Northern New Jersey chapter, the New York City chapter, the International president from Washington DC and visitors from Connecticut and Vermont.
The event, which featured a trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and a dinner at the Mercantile Grill, included Charles A. Gargano, Chairman and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation - Governor Pataki's right hand man.
Griffith and Simone arranged to be there and to present the second of the two plaques to the man they knew could deliver the plaque to the Governor.
"He took it on behalf of the governor," Griffith said. "We may get a chance later to meet the governor."
Gargano, Griffith said, was very impressed with the plaque, and used the moment to talk about the renaissance of lower Manhattan. Gargano gave a small speech, using the plaque as a platform to discuss the multi-disciplines necessary for the rebuilding of the WTC center.
"We were a diverse group, and that the theme of the day was the coming together of different people," Griffith said, "people of different background and talents, such as Stefano's."
This was a great accomplishment, but Simone and Griffith had not been idle in seeking to present the last of the plaques, the one they intended for President George W. Bush.
"We had found someone to take to the president for us," Griffith said, noting some concern over whether or not the president would actually receive the gift.
Gargano, vice chairman of the Port Authority and a former Ambassador to Trinidad, eased those concerns as well. Gargano would be meeting with the president shortly, and he promised Griffith and Simone to make certain that the third plaque reached the president's hands.
Copyright © The Secaucus Reporter 2003