CLEARFIELD – Ten years ago, Clearfield held a special ceremony and added a new stone to the Clearfield County Courthouse steps to commemorate all who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
The stone was made reality by the efforts of Marven Smith of Clearfield, who was the chairman of Clearfield’s 9-11 Committee.
Although he doesn’t remember exactly when they started discussing it, his family started the conversation sometime earlier in 2011, as they realized it was going to be the 10th anniversary of the attacks that September.
Smith started contacting others in the area to find out if they could get a group together to plan something special to mark the occasion.
This became “like a full-time job” for him, as they worked out what to do that would best honor those who died.
Someone made a suggestion for a memorial stone, but he doesn’t remember who it was, as they discussed many possibilities.
He contacted Dan Hile, at Cuetara-Hile Memorials, who advised him that the committee would have to know exactly what they wanted on the stone before they could talk about the cost.
Smith’s next stop was the Susquehanna River Arts Center of Clearfield County (SRACC).
After several meetings, “we decided to have a contest with the arts people about what we would like on the stone and what a Clearfield County memorial flag might look like,” he explained.
“The only stipulation I had, for the stone, is it would need to show the four areas that were hit that day: the two towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93.”
The winner was Karen Neeper, who used her husband’s hands to design the hands of God holding the four targets with the nine showing the shape of the Pentagon and the 11 being the Twin Towers.
A county flag was designed by arts teacher, Steve Hindman that has been flown at half staff each year on Sept. 11 at the courthouse. (Afterwards, the flag is removed, and placed under glass until the next year.)
Smith went back to Dan Hile to place the order for the stone, which would be the same size as the Ten Commandments stone that has stood at the courthouse for years.
They wanted the two to appear to be “book ends, but of a different color.”
The design was sent to a company where they would use a laser to etch the drawing into the stone.
“The stone weighed over a ton, and was very difficult to handle,” he explained.
“It took over a day to remove it (from the crate it was shipped in) and stand it up on end.”
It was hoisted onto a truck and taken to the courthouse to be placed on the base, which had replaced one of the courthouse steps.
“That was a very trying day.”
Smith wrote in a recap of the ordeal: “the stone needed to be picked up with two 3/16 nylon straps and placed on the base with only an eighth of an inch to get the straps out. It was pretty nerve racking. Most people knew very little about what (effort) this took.”
Smith was also busy spreading the word about the stone and getting other groups involved in the anniversary ceremony.
“I visited every school in the area” giving out markers and poster board, asking the kids to design posters about the events of Sept. 11.
“We ended up with about 100 posters that I mounted on cardboard.”
These were placed in stores all over town.
To pay for the stone, he made stops at every club, bar and scout troop to raise the money. Donation cans at local businesses also helped.
As part of that effort, the committee collected scrap metal in dumpsters.
“I think we filled three dumpsters that summer.”
They needed to raise at least $8,000 to pay for the stone. But then the Clearfield Fire Company stepped up and paid for it.
In the end, the other collected funds totaled over $9,000, $1,746 of which went to cover expenses. The remaining $7,378 was then donated to the American Red Cross.
The stone was dedicated on Sept. 11, 2011 as part of a remembrance of that tragic day that also included a ceremony at the Litz Stage at the fairgrounds and a parade through town.
“The two major things we wanted to accomplish that day was to always remember, and secondly was to honor all those who do that dangerous work in our communities, our police, firefighter and EMS,” Smith said.
“We must never forget all those we lost that day, and never forget how hundreds lost their lives that day, in an attempt to save their fellow man.”
Smith has this invitation for visitors to Clearfield.
“Stop down at the courthouse and stand in front of the stone and admire its beautiful art.
“The stone has a history of its own. Just remember.”