A vibrant spring day at the Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial & Education Center in Kewaskum, Wisconsin. The foreground is beautifully dominated by a pear tree in full bloom, its white blossoms vivid against the clear blue sky. Behind the tree, the memorial's signage prominently displays, with a backdrop of the quaint downtown area featuring historic brick buildings. The scene is peaceful, with lush greenery adding a touch of serenity to this meaningful site.

How I Became Involved with the Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial & Education Center

There’s someone here to see you…

There are moments in life that change your trajectory and send you on a mission you never expected to become a part of. That’s how I became involved with the Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial & Education Center in Kewaskum, Wisconsin. I am often asked how I began my journey with the Memorial, and I’m going to take you down that road in this blog post—my first ever with this fancy new Substack subscription.

The Chance Encounter

In February of 2018, I was sitting at my desk at EPIC Creative in West Bend. Heather Cich, our operations director, came up the Mezzanine and told me there was a person from Kewaskum in the lobby who was determined not to leave until someone spoke with him. I was curious, so I obliged.

Standing in the entryway was Jerry Gosa, a determined former Kewaskum High School teacher. He was on a mission to find someone who would listen to his story about a 9/11 Memorial they were building in Kewaskum and help them market their idea to donors.

As the only person in the office who lived in Kewaskum, I was intrigued, and I agreed to hear him out.

Falling in Love with the Mission

As Jerry shared the story of what they wanted to create, I was instantly captivated by the mission. It was certainly something I wanted to be a part of. Soon, EPIC decided to back the project, recognizing its potential as more than just a local feature, but as an educational space for all of Wisconsin. We advised the board of Kewaskum Remembers 9/11, Inc.—the nonprofit that runs the Memorial—to rename it the Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial. This would give the mission more impact across the state and potentially give us more access to donors outside of Kewaskum. The board agreed, and our agency then set to work on creating new logos, updating the website, and assisting with fundraising materials.

Joining the Board of Directors

Soon, I was invited to join the board of directors. I accepted and started participating in meetings with donors, attending public events, and speaking with groups about the idea of the Memorial. We hired Kathleen Fisher to assist with fundraising, and the pieces began to fall into place. Donors started taking notice, and soon we had enough funds to build the Memorial.

Honoring Jerry Gosa

Two men, Gordon Haberman and Jerry Gosa, stand smiling beside a large piece of steel from the North Tower of the World Trade Center. This relic, serving as a poignant reminder of 9/11, is situated in a park-like setting with lush green grass and a yellow construction vehicle in the background. Gordon, on the left, wears a formal light blue button-up shirt and dark trousers, while Jerry, on the right, is dressed casually in a red polo shirt and dark shorts, donning a Wisconsin baseball cap. A small American flag arrangement adds a touch of patriotic spirit to the scene.
Gordon Haberman and Jerry Gosa as the steel from the North Tower of the World Trade Center arrives in Kewaskum

In early March of 2021, Jerry Gosa sadly passed away. His dedication and hard work touched many lives, and he is sorely missed. His legacy lives on through the Kewaskum KEYS Run to benefit the KEYS scholarship foundation, to which the Memorial donates $2,000 worth of scholarships each year.

I took over Jerry’s spot as the Vice President of the board of directors after his passing.

The Memorial Opens

At the dedication ceremony of the Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial & Education Center, Governor Tony Evers is pictured engaging warmly with Gordon, Kathy, and Julie Haberman. The scene is set under a clear blue sky, with attendees seated in white chairs around a paved area where the ceremony is taking place. Behind the speakers, a significant piece of rusted steel from the World Trade Center stands as a focal point. Spectators, some dressed in suits and others in summer attire, watch attentively in the background, which also features industrial and natural elements, including a water tower. The atmosphere is solemn yet hopeful, marked by the community coming together to honor history and educate future generations.
Governor Tony Evers meets with Gordon, Kathy, and Julie Haberman during the Memorial’s Grand Opening dedication

The effects of COVID strung out the building of the Memorial, but after nearly seven years and support from hundreds of people, the Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial & Education Center finally opened to the public in June 2021.

Our opening event was attended by hundreds. We were grateful to have Governor Tony Evers attend the event and give a beautiful speech, along with Board President Gordon Haberman and his daughter Julie.

Taking The Reins

Now serving as president of the board of directors, our mission is to educate students throughout Wisconsin about the September 11th attacks. We achieve this by sending educational materials, hosting field trips and conversations, and holding an annual commemoration event.

Just a side note, over the past 5+ years, EPIC Creative has donated more than $200,000 in time and expertise to the Memorial. I am incredibly proud of our team for their great work and I am grateful to be a part of an organization that believes in giving back to our community.

While I didn’t expect Jerry to walk into our business that day, I’m really glad he did. Without his persistence and courage to meet with strangers, I may never have gotten involved. Being a part of the Memorial has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I am looking forward to the great things the Memorial does to educate future generations and ensure that the lessons of 9/11 are never forgotten.

You can learn more about the Memorial at https://wisconsin911memorial.com.

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