Patrick Vogel never saw the World Trade Center outside of photographs, and he didn't know anyone who died on9/11.
But as far as the Long Beach artist is concerned, he has a connection — a slight, geographical one — to the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Before hijackers took over the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, all three were destined to land in Los Angeles, not far from Huntington Beach, where Vogel has been selected to design a 9/11 memorial over the next year and a half.
"I'm sure there's many Southern Californians who knew someone," said Vogel, who also designed a 9/11 memorial in 2002 for the city of Signal Hill.
In September, Huntington Beach's police and fire associations obtained a pair of steel girders from the World Trade Center's wreckage and invited artists to submit designs for a memorial by City Hall. The submissions had to incorporate the two girders, mention the locations of the 9/11 attacks and avoid religious messages.
When the first deadline passed Dec. 15 with no submissions, the associations pushed it back to Feb. 15. Six artists ultimately sent in designs and a committee led by Jim Katapodis, a Los Angeles police sergeant who is running for Huntington Beach City Council this year, chose Vogel as the winner.
The artist, who has crafted steel sculptures for Boeing, theJ. Paul Getty Museum and numerous cities, submitted a design that features a pair of Twin Tower-like structures on top of a Pentagon shape, with a fountain in the middle. The 19-foot stainless steel monument will also feature the words "We will never forget" around the base, along with the names of the hijacked flights and the steel girders welded together in front of the towers.
It was the immediacy of the images that stood out to the committee, according to Katapodis.
"We wanted something where you could recognize it right away and say, 'That's definitely a Ground Zero monument for 9/11, right there,'" he said.
The memorial is expected to take nine months to complete and cost more than $150,000, which the committee plans to raise without public funds. Vogel has contributed his artist's fee toward the project, while three committee members gathered more than $500 on Saturday at the city's annual Easter Egg Hunt.
City spokeswoman Laurie Frymire said the city would have to go through an approval process, although she did not know the exact steps. The committee hopes to dedicate the memorial on Sept. 11, 2013 and will start construction when it has at least 80% of the funding, according to Dennis Hashin, the police association's chief financial officer.
Already, the project has at least one major backer: Mike Grumet, president of the Kiwanis Club of Huntington Beach, has announced plans to reschedule his group's annual golf tournament to Sept. 11 this year and donate half of the proceeds to the memorial.
Vogel said that, in creating his design, he sought to represent the tragedy rather than comment on it. Spectators, he noted, would invariably reach their own conclusions.
"If there is a message, it's the bigger picture that the city is embracing a memorial," he said. "That's the biggest message. The city realizes that these things need to be preserved through history. When future generations see these memorials, they'll be inquisitive and ask what it represents."
How to donate
To contribute to the memorial fund, send a check payable to "HBPOF-911 Memorial" to P.O. Box 896, Huntington Beach, 92648.