Fort Atkinson Police Officer Steve Riggs has spent his free time during the past year taking classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s certified public manager program.
As part of the program, Riggs and a group of classmates have to team up for a project that applies the leadership skills they’ve learned in the course. The project Riggs and his group have focused on is raising awareness for the construction of a 9/11 memorial in Kewaskum.
The memorial, for which ground was broken in June, is expected to be fully completed in the summer of 2020.
While the monument is under construction, Riggs said, his group is working on making sure people know it exists as a place to honor the memory of the terrotist attacks on America.
“What we’re doing is we’re raising awareness,” Riggs said. “When you talk to people about 9/11, the events that transpired on that day, depending on what demographic you’re talking to, you know, it seems like it’s fading a little bit.”
The Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial was co-founded by West Bend resident Gordon Haberman. Haberman’s daughter, Andrea, a graduate of Kewaskum High School, was killed in the attack.
Andrea Haberman was in New York for the first business trip of her life and arrived early for work in the World Trade Center at 8 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, her father said. She was working on the 92nd floor and was unable to escape the tower following the attacks.
Soon thereafter, Haberman said, he was struck by the outpouring of support from communities around Wisconsin and the country.
“We were surrounded with goodness,” Haberman said. “It wasn’t lost on us. Throughout the years, people responded with kindness and help.”
In the 18 years that followed, Haberman has made lasting relationships with people around Wisconsin and a number of the first responders and construction workers in New York City who helped in the aftermath of the attack.
“I have a whole New York family now made up of cops, firefighters, construction workers, law enforcement,” Haberman said. “Early on in the process, I got very close to people working at Ground Zero.”As a result of the support, Haberman and his wife started the Wisconsin 9/11 Memorial to honor their daughter, the first responders, the construction workers and the communities that supported them.
The centerpiece from the memorial is a steel beam salvaged from the wreckage, but it also will feature a number of educational tools, Haberman said.
The educational aspect is important to Haberman because he wants people to remember every part of the attacks, not only the horror, but the way the country rallied in support.
“What isn’t taught is how 9/11 affected your life, their life, what actually happened in this country in the aftermath,” Haberman said. “Prime in the importance of the new memorial is to educate not only about the event in loss of life, but in this country’s response to it. Not only the military, but the compassion and unity that came out of it.”
The raising of the memorial has been years in the making, Haberman said. From the initial attack in 2001 to receiving the beam in 2014 and finally breaking ground in 2019, the organization has needed a lot of help along the way. That help is where Riggs’ class comes in. Haberman said the class has been instrumental in making sure people around the state know about the memorial.
“They’re doing an incredible job at getting the word out that this memorial exists, that it’s going up and that we need help,” Haberman said.
He said Riggs and his class have been a huge help and are important for Wisconsin’s future.
“These guys know their stuff and they’re dedicated to public service and community and becoming better managers and how better they can serve the public,” Haberman said. “What a wonderful endorsement by this group to adopt this project as part of their own. These are the people that are going to lead our state. We should all be in their gratitude and will be in the future.”
Riggs said he expects to receive his certificate for completing the CPM program this year.
More information about the memorial and how to help is at www.wisconsin911memorial.com.