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Challenge Coin campaign leads into 9/11 memorial dedication
ARLINGTON — While the Challenge Coin campaign continues to raise funds for the Arlington Fire Department's World Trade Center Memorial Project, Linda Byrnes explained how organizers decided to personalize a national tragedy.
"I'd heard that several other communities in the state didn't want to memorialize 9/11, because it happened in New York and not their cities," said Byrnes, who presented the campaign to the City Council. "This event was so profound for our whole country that we cannot forget it."
Byrnes acknowledged that the total death toll of 2,752 from that day's terrorist attacks can be a difficult number to wrap one's head around, which is why the Challenge Coins narrowed that down to honor the 415 first responders who died, including 343 firefighters and 72 police officers.
"Each coin has the name of one person, to make it more personal," Byrnes said. "It's like the POW bracelets that people wore during the Vietnam war. It ensures that, if nothing else, you know that one name, and you won't forget what happened to them."
Byrnes believes that pricing each coin at $100 also personalizes the fundraising, by making it more accessible for individuals, rather than relying on large grants.
"More than a hundred coins are already spoken for, and I don't think any will be left on the shelf," Byrnes said. "Nonetheless, we're going out into the community, not only to solicit donations for the memorial through the campaign, but also to show people what we've been doing."
Byrnes freely conceded that other methods of fundraising might have been more speedy and convenient, but to her, forging those personal connections with the fallen is as important as building the memorial itself.
"We had folks pick last names that were similar to their own, or people who shared their ethnicity," Byrnes said, before laughing, "There's been a lot of support for the Irish.
"That sense of connection will have a staying power," she added. "I hope our donors' kids and grandkids will see these coins and ask, 'What's this?' We want them to remember."
Arlington will be dedicating the 9/11 memorial Thursday, Sept.11, at 6 p.m. at Fire Station 46, at 137 N. MacLeod Ave.
To learn more about, get involved in or receive an in-person presentation about the Challenge Coin campaign, email email@example.com or log onto www.arlingtonwa.gov/WTCchallengecoin.