Although he lives in Caldwell and runs a recycling business in Livingston, Sol Moglen still has strong loyalties to his native Brooklyn.
One month after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he was still trying to fathom the sacrifices made by residents of the borough.
“How many people did we lose? Out of 343 firefighters who died that day, Brooklyn lost 137,” he recalled in an Aug. 22 telephone interview. “That was when I decided I wanted to do a special project so these people would never be forgotten.”
Ten years later, his efforts will be recognized on prime time television. The season’s first episode of CSI: New York, a popular crime show on CBS, will feature the “Wall of Remembrance” Moglen helped erect in Coney Island.
Moglen will talk about the memorial at a talk on Friday, Sept. 9, at 8 p.m. at Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell.
On Aug. 15, Moglen and series star Gary Sinise stood at a podium in front of the wall, at MCU Park in Coney Island, the home field of the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones.
While cameras rolled and victims’ relatives looked on, Sinise read a proclamation that will be part of the Sept. 23 broadcast. Behind him stood the three granite slabs bearing the engraved images of the 343 active duty and three retired firefighters, 37 Port Authority officers, 23 NYC police officers, three New York State court officers, one fire marshal, two emergency medical technicians, and one canine rescue dog named Sirius.
A chain of coincidences brought Moglen’s efforts to the attention of Sinise, who in CSI: New York plays a character whose wife was killed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
As Moglen began raising funds for the memorial, Sinise happened to be traveling to Baghdad to visit American troops. Sitting next to Sinise on the plane was retired New York Fire Captain John Vigiano, who lost two sons — Joseph, a police officer and John Jr., a firefighter — in the WTC.
Vigiano had been working with Moglen on creating the memorial.
“He told Sinise about the memorial in Brooklyn with the names of both of his sons and said we wanted to expand it because we only had the names of Brooklyn people on it,” Moglen said.
“A few weeks later I got a call saying, ‘Gary Sinise wants to meet you at the wall.’”
Several hours later they got together at the stadium, looked at the Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance, and examined the design sketches for the other two walls.
One recognizes the first responders who came from New York City’s other four boroughs; the other salutes members of law enforcement organizations.
When Sinise saw the plans, said Moglen, “he told me, ‘I would like to do something to help you guys.’ A week later he sent us a check for $25,000.”
Sinise, who is a jazz bass player, held a benefit concert for the memorial fund and enlisted fellow actors Jon Voight and Drew Carey in the effort.
By the time the fund-raising was finished, Moglen had collected $500,000 to construct the additional memorial walls at the stadium.
“We are touched that Sinise has gone that far for us,” said Moglen, who has gone on to spearhead another successful effort: the establishment at Arlington Cemetery’s Chaplains Hill of a memorial honoring the 13 Jewish chaplains killed in active duty with America’s armed forces.
Regarding the 9/11 monument, Moglen said, “The nice thing is, we get 280,000 fans each year to come to see the memorial. We have a nice place to celebrate these first responders, not to mourn them. Their families feel good about it. It is not sad. Whenever you go to Ground Zero it always will be sad, but this is not sad.”