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The Highest Height

For 9/11, a kid's diversion becomes a memorial.


Kites may seem frivolous, even symbols of childish joy, but they won't work unless you hold onto them...which is partly why Michael Sciaretti of Highland Park thought of them as a memorial to the victims of Sept. 11, 2001.

"That's part of what I consider the beauty of it," says Sciaretti. "It does require active participation. It's not a static memorial."

By Sept. 11 this year, Sciaretti will have distributed the first 3,066 kites to the survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, as well as to the families of those who died in the Somerset plane crash, he says. He's hoping they will fly the white kites, decorated with a red, white and blue ribbon, on the anniversary, wherever they happen to be. He hopes to sell another 2,000 kites, with proceeds going to memorials at all three sites.

"There's a beautiful innocence about it," he says of the idea, which he has funded with his own money, and the help of a Duquesne University small business center. "Because it's so mobile...because you can take it's something that can be done communally, or it can be done individually, like a meditation or a prayer. My intention is not to upstage [other] events. We want these to be a silent memorial."

The idea, he says, followed the death of his partner from AIDS in 1994. "I had such a difficult time with it. The thing that I couldn't deal with is the absolute absence from your life. The realization was so hard that it left me with little to no coping mechanisms. I just got really distraught one day, and I heard Stevie Wonder singing 'A Ribbon in the Sky For Our Love,' and I just went home and wrote the whole thing down.

"I thought about the AIDS quilt. The thing that's so magical and beautiful about the AIDS quilt is that it is made by the survivors. These kites, if you take a Sharpie pen, because they are white, you can draw anything on them – or just get a bunch of people to sign them. And it seemed appropriate and meaningful."

Sciaretti, the project supervisor for his family-owned construction company, Sciaretti Asphalt Paving, in Braddock, hopes his Memorial Kite Project will catch on as a fundraiser for other causes.

"There's been so much death and destruction and so much bad news," he says. "I'm happy to offer this as an alternative memorial."

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