Local restaurateur and flag designer Richard Melito is getting close to approval for his proposed 9/11 monument on Henrico County land next to Regency Square Mall.
It would be the county's first new monument in a century, Melito says, with the exception of a statue dedicated to police officers killed in the line of duty, which stands at the Henrico government center.
Although it would sit on county land, the white marble structure would be built and maintained with private funds. Renderings show a tall monument in the shape of a flag that Melito designed after the terrorist attacks, engraved with the names of every person who perished in the 9/11 attacks. The monument would stand on a roughly triangular piece of empty land bounded by North Parham, Quioccasin and Eastridge roads.
The Henrico County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to discuss the proposal for the monument Oct. 26. The public hearing for the project, which would be the last step required for county approval, likely will be scheduled for later this year.
“Everything has to be written up, analyzed, scrutinized, formalized,” Melito says, adding: “You can't just walk in and build a monument, and we understood that.”
As soon as the board approves the plans, Melito says, a foundation will start raising the $1.2 million to $1.5 million needed to build it. He's optimistic that supporters will be able to break ground in January and unveil the monument in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
Melito initially created a freedom flag to hang at his West End restaurant, Melito's, a cozy Richmond institution known for its chili dogs. Each element of the flag is symbolic; five bars around a single white star represent the Pentagon, while two broad red stripes evoke the Twin Towers.
In 2003 former Gov. Mark Warner formally recognized the flag as an official Virginia symbol of remembrance of 9/11. The flag is flown at thousands of Virginia schools each year on the anniversary of that date.
Melito sometimes asks young customers at his restaurant what year 9/11 happened. “A lot of people have to stop and think,” he says.
He doesn't criticize them. In 2001, today's high school senior was 8 or 9 years old — but that shows, Melito says, why it's important to talk about that day. He says the monument will “show that we haven't forgotten.”