Milford school’s 9/11 memorial garden continues preserving legacy of local victims

9/11 Never Forget

September 11 Timeline

MILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) –Three World Trade Center victims were from Milford. Two of them attended Live Oaks Elementary School as kids. There’s a memorial garden that was planted at the school a year later that is still flourishing today.

Twenty years ago, Ray Vitali was principal of Live Oaks Elementary, and he was making his daily rounds, “And as I stopped into the media center, I saw the plane go right into that second tower.”

It turned out three 9/11 victims were from Milford. Seth Morris had gone to a different school, but Michael Miller and Avnish Patel both attended Live Oaks as kids.

“Michael Miller was a little older. He was working in the towers. Avnish Patel was a student of mine here,” Vitali recalled.

It became clear to Vitali the school needed to do something.

“We need to create something that these parents could come to and do some thought processing, just to process what has happened,” Vitali said.

They decided on a memorial garden. News8 was there for the dedication in 2002. During that dedication ceremony, Vitaly described the then-new garden as “a place representative of this historical event that would live on forever…”

Two arborvitaes represent the twin towers. Below them is a piece of rubble from Ground Zero. The mother of Michael Miller, Betty Ann, told News 8 then that came from her family priest.

“And he had gone down to the world trade center and was allowed to bring home two small rocks. And so we felt that this should be the place for that rock,” Betty Ann Miller said.

Since that first year, the students have always been a part of the 9/11 ceremonies.

Rose Marzanato is the current Live Oaks principal, She said, “They’ve been part of saying the pledge of allegiance, so we try to involve the students and the families as much as possible.”

For older students, 9/11 is part of the curriculum.

“They can’t believe that it was only in New York,” said Marzanato. “Many of them have been to New York, so they feel the closeness of the event.”

As recently as two years ago, Milford held its 9/11 ceremony here in the garden. But every day, the garden still serves its purpose.

“My students use this garden as a reflective place. They come and sit for quiet time. They ponder deep thoughts,” Marzanato said.

Just like the twin arborvitaes, students here keep growing. The current ones are too young to remember that day. That is the duty of the rest of us, with the help of memorials like this.

“We need to remember, as adults, to never forget this event. Remember never to forget it. That’s an important piece,” Vitali said.

And the garden is still used that way. Vitali visited the garden a few weeks ago and ran into Betty Ann Miller sitting in the garden, remembering her son.

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