Set in stone: Columbia 9/11 memorial honors first responders

It’s more than a monument. The sculptor calls the creation a bridge for generations.
Updated: Sep. 20, 2019 at 10:01 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Ron Clamp is a third generation sculptor, one of only 33 gilded stonecarvers in the country.

His West Columbia warehouse is a massive shed filled with memorials and memories. The dust and stones are the proof.

“Stone lasts for thousands upon thousands of years," he said. "You’re trying to record a moment in time.”

The carvings include ornate headstones, sculpted lions, famous busts -- even life-size replicas.

But few monuments he’s crafted in his 35 years of stone carving carry more meaning than the memorial he created at the corner of Lincoln and Senate Streets in Columbia’s Vista, just a few miles from his warehouse.

“That monument has a life of its own," he said. "It’s a monument that remembers, but it’s a monument which keeps moving forward and giving.”

The 9/11 First Responders Remembrance Memorial honors those who gave it all answering a call to serve.

“I think it’s really a tribute that in Columbia, South Carolina we honor that type of heroism," he said.

Getting a monument built for heroes required a heroic effort.

"We had six months to the day. We were contacted on February 11th and they wanted a first responders memorial by September 11th,” Clamp explained.

It was a tight timeline with a shoestring budget. The 9/11 Remembrance Foundation of South Carolina, headed by Army veteran Dan Hennigan, only had $700 to begin with but quickly raised every single penny of the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to finish the monument.

“Everybody came together," Clamp said. "This wasn’t something government came together and wrote a check for. Everybody in the community responded to the call.”

When it was unveiled six months later, one year after the attacks, the community beheld Clamp’s design.

The two towers with marble plates bear the names of South Carolina’s fallen first responders and service members. Two pieces broken below symbolize the attack. Two beams from the 72nd floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center are positioned like crossed swords.

“Everybody sees the towers, but every piece of that day is symbolized in that design,” Clamp said.

It’s more than a monument. Clamp calls the creation a bridge for generations.

“You can’t stop from repeating history if you don’t remember it," he said. "So the monument serves a real purpose.”

The memorial points people young and old back to that moment.

“It’s important that we remember what happened in that day. And it’s also more important to remember how we came together as a country -- how we responded,” Clamp said.

Blank marble slabs on the monument await more names for South Carolina’s fallen.

The sculpture of steadfast stone for heroes past, present and future proves our grateful community will never forget.

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