September 11, 2001, is a day that will forever be engraved in the memories of Americans. Across the nation, millions of Americans watched as the Twin Towers fell in New York City. For one local man, Adrian Gagesteyn, the day marked “an attempt to take our freedom away.” So, a vision was born.
Adrian was a first generation American. His parents emigrated from Holland just before World War II to Union City, New Jersey, where he and his two sisters were born. His father worked in New York City, and he and his sisters loved to take the train into the city and wander around Manhattan. There, they would admire the growing landscape and watch skyscrapers, such as the Twin Towers, be built.
As an adult, Adrian worked as the Senior Keeper at the New York Aquarium for over 30 years. There, his passion for art and design blossomed, as he designed tanks and displays for the animals in the aquarium. Later in life, Adrian and his wife relocated to Lynchburg, where he served as a Tree Steward for the City of Lynchburg for 20 years.
It was during his time in Lynchburg that Adrian watched in disbelief as the Twin Towers fell. Once the dust settled, Adrian’s artistic brain got to work searching for a way to pay tribute to the iconic buildings. He described having “visions” of what the memorial should look like. Around this time, his wife passed away, and he sought a way to tie two tributes together.
Adrian knew that he wanted a peaceful setting for the memorial, and eventually settled on the Presbyterian Cemetery where his wife was buried. There, he found a cool, shady area that was just the right size for the towers he envisioned. He then enlisted help from friends to help to make his vision come to life. Dave and Jane Norton from Jefferson Lighting were instrumental in helping to construct the 8 foot tall tower structures. Michael Martineau, a plumber by trade, had extensive knowledge on pouring concrete. Adrian wanted to ensure that the concrete would not crack and become unsightly. Michael knew how to get it just right.
The construction of the towers was completed in 2008. Today, visitors to the Cemetery can find the monument near the office, right before the exit onto Grace Street.
Adrian Gagesteyn passed away in 2016 at the age of 83, but his legacy lives on through his works of art. In addition to the Twin Tower memorial, Adrian also created a tribute to the year 2000 in the cemetery, as well as a pipe sculpture to honor Lynchburg-based Griffin Pipe, which sits on the front lawn of Jefferson Lighting on Odd Fellows Rd.
In addition to our monument, Lynchburg also has another tie to the memory of the Twin Towers. In 2006, Banker Steel fabricated the first steel beams that were used in construction of the Freedom Tower, the 1,776 foot tall sculpture that resides on the grounds of the fallen towers.