Hayward 9/11 Memorial’s Future Uncertain Amid Dispute

Michael Emerson previously built the Flight 93 Memorial in Union City and helped build the national memorial in Shanksville, Penn.

The designer of Hayward’s proposed 9/11 memorial, Michael Emerson, does not think the city wants to build a memorial in Hayward anymore.

In a letter sent to the city, just hours before the memorial was approved by Hayward’s City Hall, Emerson stated, “this wonderful project is dead.”

Emerson asked the city to set a limit to the number of days it will take to respond to future modifications to the project. He proposed the city set the limit at 20 business days in the period running up to construction of the memorial and 10 business days after the building process begins.

If the city doesn’t respond by then, Emerson wants the modifications to be automatically approved. The city has denied his request.

“Their excuses do not make sense,” Emerson told The Pioneer. “It’s just about control. They have a pathological desire and need to have control. And what they don’t understand is that the city doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to the citizens.”

The only modification necessary, according to Emerson, is to include the design of collages featured in the monument; four collages representing each of the planes that were hijacked on 9/11 will feature in the memorial. The designs have not been finalized yet.

Other modifications to the memorial are unlikely, said Emerson, but he worries that if a timeframe is not set, the city will “take their sweet time and will drag this on forever.”

“Unfortunately, it’s just like a marriage. If you’re dating this woman and you really care about her, but there’s some problems with her and you marry her; those problems don’t go away,” Emerson said. “I see this relationship as a marriage between me and the city. And if I’m having problems before we start the relationship, I think we’re going to have problems after the relationship.”

Hayward City Attorney Michael Lawson said Emerson’s terms were not “prudent” for the city, due to public safety and policy concerns. “No public agency would agree to such a provision,” Lawson said.

Emerson stressed that the memorial is a gift to the city. The project is funded entirely through private donations and won’t cost anything to the city.

“I have no hidden agenda. I just want to build this memorial,” Emerson said. “I’m not getting paid for it; I’m just doing this for my city and for my fellow citizens and to honor the heroes of Flight 93 and to honor the first responders and veterans. That’s it.”

Councilmember Greg Jones and David Rizk, director of development, were baffled by Emerson’s demands.

Rizk has worked with Emerson since the early stages of the project. He says he can’t sympathize with Emerson’s position.

“I know Mr. Emerson was frustrated at how long it took the city to get him a draft version of [the memorandum of understanding], but I wouldn’t say [the process] was smooth and that it’s come up unexpectedly,” Rizk said.

Former Hayward Mayor Roberta Cooper previously denied a memorial designed by Emerson shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That project was moved to Union City, where it was completed in 2007.

Emerson said he is prepared to move the memorial project elsewhere if the city is not able to agree to his terms by mid-September. Possible alternative locations for the project include Pleasanton, Dublin and San Leandro.

“Its just unfortunate that they turned me down in 2002, and 11 years later they turned me down again,” said Emerson.

Emerson noted that he has not completely given up hope on building the project in Hayward. “We just gotta make the modification to the MoU, and we’re off and running,” he said.

The memorial is set to be located on the corner of Mission and D Street, on the lawn opposite of the children’s play area next to the abandoned city hall.

The design includes red granite benches, prominently featuring the words “WE WILL NEVER FORGET” paved in gray brick in the center of the memorial. Four black granite monoliths will feature a collage representing the four airplanes that were hijacked on 9/11.

An American flag stands in the middle, reaching up from a center stone in honor of the fallen fire fighters and police officers of Hayward. Their names will be engraved in stone, noting their service to the city. Full pictures of the final approved design can be found at www.hayward911memorial.com.