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Gold medals honor Fallen Heroes
By Debbie Bradley
May 22, 2014

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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They are the fallen heroes, people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, in terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93, which crashed in a cornfield in rural Pennsylvania.

And now they will be honored with Congressional gold medals, the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress. Duplicate bronze medals will also be struck and sold to the public.

Designs for those three gold medals, which will be presented to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York and the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, D.C., were recently reviewed by the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

“The medals are to honor the men and women who perished on Sept. 11, 2001,” said CCAC Chairman Gary Marks. The authorizing legislation, Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Act, simply calls for the medals to portray suitable emblems, he said.

“I don’t see any right or wrong with any of these designs,” Marks said of the 84 sketches presented.

The U.S. Mint had worked with liaisons representing the three sites to make sure their ideas and preferences were included in the design process, Marks said.

It was noted, for instance, that the families of Flight 93 victims did not want to see a plane depicted on their medal.

“What happened on Sept. 11 was so personal to each of us as Americans, and we each process it our own way,” Marks said. “This is art. We’re trying to evaluate which art is best and in this case it’s so intimate to the individual.”

There was some disagreement among members over the use of text on the reverse of the medals.

“I’m thinking about Pearl Harbor and how that generation is nearly gone,” said CCAC member Tom Uram. “In 100 years how are the medals going to be viewed, how is the story going to be told? I think the story will be remembered because of the words.”

But for Marks, the art was the key.

“In my world it’s all about the art and what it says to the individual,” Marks said. “As far as I’m concerned, the less text the better.”

In the end, the CFA and CCAC agreed on four of the six designs to be recommended. Their design choices follow.

Fallen Heroes – New York: The CFA endorsed obverse design No. 8 (pictured), which features abstract lines flowing downward symbolizing loss and lines moving upward to represent rising above with hope from that loss. The numbers 93, 77, 175 and 11 represent the four planes involved in the tragedy. The words “Always Remember” are set in a stone wall.

The CCAC recommended obverse design No. 1, which features on the left a firefighter climbing stairs in the World Trade Center and on the right, a ghostly image of the ruins of the twin towers. The design is a testament to the bravery of emergency response personnel and a reminder of the finality of the disaster.

Both groups chose design No. 13 for the reverse. The design focuses on the inscription that reads: “Time cannot erase the memory of 2753 innocent people from more than 90 countries, lost at the World Trade Center in the attacks that shook the world on September 11, 2001. May their memory inspire an end to intolerance.”

Also featured on the design is a bald eagle clasping branches and roses.

The CFA asked that the comma after “countries” be removed and both groups asked that the rose at the top of the design be removed.

Fallen Heroes – Pentagon: The CFA recommended obverse design No. 9, which shows the rebuilt facade of the Pentagon where Flight 77 crashed. A candle and small bouquet signify a memorial at the site. It did ask that plants around the building be removed.

The CCAC preferred obverse design No. 8 featuring Lady Liberty enclosed within the shape of a pentagon with her head bowed in sorrow and her arms outstretched. Stars inside the pentagon represent the number of people killed inside the Pentagon on Sept. 11.

Both groups chose reverse design No. 8, which features 184 stars on a raised border to represent each victim. The text reads: “We honor the passengers and crew of Flight 77, those in the military who sacrifice for our freedom, and all who perished at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. We will never forget.”

Fallen Heroes – Flight 93: Neither the CFA nor the CCAC liked any of the obverse designs presented for the medal honoring the victims of the Flight 93 crash.

So they looked to the reverse designs and both chose reverse design 5B. The design features the hemlock groves behind the memorial boulder at the Flight 93 Memorial. It includes the inscription, “A common field one day, a field of honor forever.”

The CFA asked that the date on the reverse be removed and the CCAC asked that the words “Act of Congress” be removed.

The design recommendations have been forwarded to the U.S. Mint.



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On May 22, 2014 Walter J Huber said
Only one of the design possibilities mentioned as acceptable to the CFA & CCAC & other interested parties is actually shown in the article. Would like to see the NY reverse design #13; Pentagon obverse #9 & #8, and reverse #8; as well as the various obverse Flt 93 designs & the chosen reverse #58 design.  Thank you
On July 28, 2014 helen said
I think this is one of the most important information for me. And I'm glad reading your article. There are a lot of details like that to think about. Thank you!

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