Originally created 03/05/02

Athens man builds Sept. 11 tribute

ATHENS, Ga. - In the Deep South, far from ground zero, Bob Hart is turning his front yard into a memorial to Sept. 11.

On a wooded lot frequented by deer, Mr. Hart is building a rustic memorial to victims, clearing a short, winding trail, and erecting wooden signposts that display a hand-painted selection of victims' names.

By the time he finishes, the names of all the victims will be posted along the walkway, making a meditative trail in his rural Athens neighborhood.

Each post will be marked by an American flag, hand-painted by Mr. Hart in his studio. The public will be welcome.

"I just want it to be a calm place, where they can come out and reflect," he says.

Towns across the United States are planning to build memorials to the September tragedy, even places with few ties to the three crash sites or to victims. Numerous Web sites have sprung up as electronic memorials, offering evolving records of the victims and places to send in tributes.

An information technology expert at the University of Georgia, Mr. Hart said he didn't know any of the victims, but he had become disturbed by the way people seemed to be forgetting about the tragedy. He said he's always been patriotic, and was in the ROTC in the 1970s when other college classmates were protesting American government policies.

In November, Mr. Hart, an accomplished painter and folk-art collector, came up with the plan of erecting his trail memorial, which will eventually house three sculptures commemorating the crash sites in New York, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. A small chapel-like shelter with stained-glass windows is planned.

His wife, Nancy, a retired high school principal from Oglethorpe County, approves of the plan.

"I've had a lot of folks want to help," he says. The key idea, he says, is that all victims will be remembered at the site, including a rescue dog that perished.

Strolling down the trail, he still gets emotional thinking about the attacks. He said he's not seeking the publicity that might come from a memorial, but just a way to remember what happened Sept. 11.

"We're not forgetting what happened on that day," he said. "I think we need to stay on our guard."


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