Laguna Beach to monitor thrice-damaged sculpture honoring 9/11 victims


“Semper Memento,” a sculpture honoring the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, seems as though it has been under attack itself since it was installed in Laguna Beach’s Heisler Park five years ago.

So the city recently put a surveillance camera in the area so the sculpture, by Laguna Beach artist Jorg Dubin, could be monitored.

Two weeks ago Dubin reinstalled the stainless-steel sphere, which he was able to fix after it sustained a 5-inch-wide dent earlier this year, the third time it has been damaged since its installation in 2011.


“I take it personally because I designed and built the piece,” Dubin said.

“Semper Memento,” which translates to “Always Remember,” contains two steel beams from the World Trade Center ruins resting atop a concrete base in the shape of the Pentagon, with a grassy area in the middle.

Dubin alerted the city about the dent in early March after a friend walking in the park told him about it.

Dubin said he first had to figure out whether the sphere could be repaired or if it would need to be replaced. He recommended the former, and the city’s Arts Commission agreed at a meeting in late April to pay the estimated $1,000 repair cost.

Every year, the city budgets $10,000 for repairs and maintenance of its 97 public art pieces, Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl said.

In the last 15 years, six incidents of damage were reported, including the three to “Semper Memento,” according to a city staff report.

After removing the 75-pound sphere and taking it to his Laguna studio, Dubin discovered that he was able to use a rubber mallet to tap the steel back into place.


No one has been arrested, and Laguna Police Chief Laura Farinella said the department has “no idea if the damage was done maliciously or not,” the staff report said.

Last year, vandals knocked the sphere off its base.

“Both felt aggressive, but the last one [a few months ago] was aggressive with intent to damage,” Dubin said. “Someone tried to leave a mark, so to speak.

“There is something about what these [memorials] represent that some segment does not seem to like.”

Dubin’s Sept. 11 memorial is not alone. In a 2014 incident in Brooklyn, N.Y., paint was smeared on a photo of a New York police officer killed in the attacks.

Though damage to Laguna’s public art is “rare,” Poeschl said the city keeps close watch over the 97 works.

City staff, arts commissioners, artists and residents are constantly looking for any blemishes or more serious damage to the sculptures, murals and paintings, she said.


The new camera is one of 20 throughout the city that will help police monitor high-traffic areas such as Main Beach and the intersection of El Toro and Laguna Canyon roads. With the cameras, dispatchers can quickly assess a situation — perhaps a fight or vehicle collision — and determine how many officers are needed.

“They make us more effective in responding to the community,” Farinella said.

Poeschl said she will ask the City Council to boost to $15,000 the amount reserved for public art repairs when it considers the budget later this year.

Alderton writes for Times Community News.