The Keane Foundation
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Town dedicates 9-11 memorialBy: Ted Glanzer, Correspondent
It took seven years, $1.2 million and countless hours of time from volunteers, but the 9/11 Memorial Sports Center at the Pitkin Community Center officially became a reality at a dedication ceremony last Thursday, Sept. 11.
Various state and local dignitaries, including Gov. M. Jodi Rell, state Sens. Paul Doyle and John Fonfara and state Reps. Russ Morin and Tony Guerrera were on hand for the event, which included an open house as well as a ceremony attended by more than 300 people.
"I don't think anyone is getting through today without being moved," said Rell, adding that Sept. 11, 2001, was "a dreadful day" for the nation as well as Wethersfield, which lost three residents - Richard Keane, David Winton and Jeffrey Bittner - in terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
"A town shouldn't have to suffer that kind of loss," Rell said.
Yet through that loss came the sports center, which, as Keane board member Dr. Ken Sokolowski said, is a classic case of "turning lemons into lemonade."
Shortly after the Sept. 11th attacks, widow Judy Keane created the Richard M. Keane Foundation to spearhead a project that now includes a refurbished, energy-efficient gymnasium complete with automated basketball hoops, fitness room with two treadmills, two stationary bikes, two LCD televisions and a workout bag for boxing.
Richard Keane, a vice president with the Marsh & McLennan Cos. in Hartford, was an avowed sports junkie.
The facility has also gained a meeting room with wireless Internet access and seven computers, and, in its designation as the town's shelter in the event of an emergency. Previously, those seeking shelter had to be bused to Wethersfield High School to take a shower.
The most visceral features of the sports center are two pieces of twisted steel - one hanging indoors in the gymnasium and the other standing outside - from the World Trade Center, where Keane was visiting on a business trip as the terrorists struck.
Wethersfield is one of only two entities to possess artifacts from the World Trade Center site. The other is the Smithsonian Institution.
Rell urged residents to find the joy in the faces of the children who use the facility to help the community move forward.
"Our future is in them; they're the ones who bring us joy ... what better place to give them joy than right here?" Rell said.
Mayor Andrew Adil added that the sports center would play a "vital role" in shaping the bodies and minds of the community's children in teaching them to learn the importance of working together and the notion of fair play.
Judy Keane took the time to note the hard work of others, including the Town Council, Building Committee and Board of Education in having the project come to fruition. Holding back tears, Keane got a standing ovation from the crowd after her remarks.
The Revs. Wendy and Tom Vencuss, the Rev. Thomas Campion, Rabbi Henry Okolica of New Britain and Muslim chaplain Mumina Kowalski blessed the lighting of the World Trade Center artifacts.
Finally, the 20-foot piece of steel from the World Trade Center standing outside the center was illuminated, concluding the event.
Bittner was a research analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, a securities broker and dealer with offices in Hartford. He was 27 when he died.
Winton, 29 at the time, also worked at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, but was a vice president in the New York offices. He made frequent trips to Connecticut to visit his mother, whom he called after planes struck the World Trade Center, assuring her he was fine.
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