Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield unveils new memorial to honor those killed on 9/11

FAIRFIELD — For years, Dean Powers, the longtime grounds keeper at Oak Lawn Cemetery, has been working to honor those killed on United Flight 93, one of the four hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001.

Powers cleared out a previously unused area of the 100-acre cemetery grounds to erect the planned memorial tribute, but before he could see his vision become a reality he died of cancer in June of 2020.

On Tuesday, Fairfield officials gathered to officially unveil the memorial to honor those killed that fateful day as well as Powers. They were joined by Jed Glick, the brother of Jeremy Glick — one of the passengers on the plane who thwarted the attack in a plan to take the plane back from the hijackers. The plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

“The memorial is the creation of a remarkable man, Dean Powers,” said Bronson Hawley, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Oak Lawn Cemetery. “Dean meticulously designed the memorial. He worked on finalizing the details right up until the day he died. But Dean didn’t just design the memorial, he almost single handedly transformed our grounds, working at Oak Lawn seven days a week here for the last eight years of his life.”

Hawley said Powers was a very dedicated and hardworking groundskeeper who had to first transform a “virtual jungle” before he could even design a memorial.

“He saw this site and he said, ‘boy this is great and I’d like to do something to memorialize the victims,’” Hawley said.

A major part of Powers’ contributions to the memorial is the actual area in which it is located. For nearly five years, Powers transformed an area which had been overgrown with invasive plant species, predominantly Japanese Knotweed, into a natural setting that is now part of the pollinator pathway.

The new memorial that was later there consists of two nine-foot granite towers on top of a pentagon shaped granite base. It also includes a rock that is engraved with the phrase “OK, let’s roll. Shanksville, PA,” a reference from the last words spoken by Todd Beamer, as he and the other passengers attempted to gain control of the plane.

The memorial also has a connection to ground zero. A board member visited the 9/11 site in New York City and gathered acorns from the trees there. The board member took them back to his home nursery and raised the trees. Those trees are now planted along the pathway at the Oak Lawn Cemetery memorial.

Hawley said Oak Lawn Cemetery is dedicating the native area, which includes the 9/11 memorial and the pollinator garden, in memory of Powers as a way to forever honor him. A plaque has been installed on a boulder between two of his famous stone benches in his honor.

“So, this whole beautiful, natural setting, was single handedly created by Dean Powers,” Hawley said. “It is his gift to all of us, and we are forever indebted to him.”

He said he hopes people visit the area and remember Powers and everything he did for Oak Lawn, as well as his friends.

“We hope you will think of Dean, his kind, gentle manner, his love of nature, and his ever present desire to help others,” Hawley said.

This story has been updated with the full name and title for Bronson Hawley, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Oak Lawn Cemetery.