Iraq War veteran Aaron Rasmussen rang a bell three times Monday morning, with each in remembrance of the innocent Americans who died at the three crash sites that were part of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The symbolic gesture was part of virtual dedication ceremony for the recently completed 9/11 Global War on Terrorism memorial on the east lawn of the Tuolumne Veterans Memorial Hall in Tuolumne that Rasmussen spent the past five years helping to get constructed.

“When me and Frank (Smart) first started this project, I knew it was going to be big, but I didn’t think it would be this big,” he said in an interview. “As we got more into it and started planning and seeing the budget, we were like, ‘This is going to take a few years.’ ”

Smart, a Vietnam veteran who has helped to establish several military memorials throughout the county, credited former Summerville High School student Candace Olsen with helping them bring their vision into reality.

Olsen raised more than $73,000 for the memorial last year for her senior project, which Smart said was held in a fund at the Sonora Area Foundation that ultimately grew to $94,000 when all was said and done.

The foundation also provided a $12,000 grant for the project, while other funding was raised by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4748 selling commemorative bricks that are now embedded in the walkway leading up to the memorial.

“We were not coming up with ideas to raise money except to sell commemorative bricks, which we were not sure could raise enough money,” Smart said during the ceremony. “Then, along came an angel named Candace Olsen.”

Smart listed off numerous other local contractors, businesses and individuals who helped provide labor, materials and other resources to see the project through to completion.

Some final work still to be done includes placing a time capsule at the center of the memorial to open on July 4, 2076, the tricentennial of the United States, as well as artifacts from the three crash sites that will be displayed in a steel box under bulletproof glass.

The memorial features a wall with three stones that honor the first responders and civilians who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, in addition to the troops who served in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during what was dubbed as the Global War on Terrorism.

While the veterans involved with the memorial had hoped to have a much bigger event to commemorate the project’s completion, restrictions on gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to change those plans.

About 40 people sat in chairs or stood spread out on the east lawn of the veterans hall during the ceremony, with some wearing masks or face shields due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jerry Day, director of Access Tuolumne, formerly known as Cable 8, recorded the entire ceremony and will air it at 11 a.m. Friday on the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

It will also feature a special recorded speech from a first responder who worked in New York City at the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Day said he plans to make the video available on Access Tuolumne’s Facebook Live, Youtube, Comcast Cable Channel 8, and the station’s streaming apps for Roku and Apple TV.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 768-5175.


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