Five days after hijacked airplanes crashed into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and a field in Pennsylvania, Lynn Hiltajczuk realized she had to stop watching television and get outside to do something physical.
So the Wilton Woods homeowner and television producer headed out to her garden and had a brainstorm while she was out there.
"Weeding felt really good, and I thought it would be nice as a community to plant some flowers in honor of September 11," said Hiltajczuk, who lives in the Alexandria section of Fairfax.
But when she picked up the phone and called Old Town Alexandria landscape designer Christy Beal, Hiltajczuk's idea for a little flower bed grew into something much bigger. Instead, there would be a half-acre memorial garden, complete with a stone terrace, benches, a flagpole and a little wooden bridge.
A hilly site, which sits on a power line easement on Ivanhoe Lane in Wilton Woods, has already been cleared of bamboo and scrubby bushes. Dozens of residents spent hours picking rocks from the land by hand. Last week, stone masons put in a semi-circular patio, two low stone walls and a pillar that eventually will support a bronze memorial plaque.
Still to come are dozens of trees, bushes and plants, a special herb garden and walking paths that will connect the garden to a nearby playground and soccer fields.
"To take such a horrid piece of land and then turn it into something beautiful is really, really rewarding," Beal said. "Gardening is what we do. It's our way of showing how [the terrorists] affected us."
Between them, Beal, 41, and Hiltajczuk, 37, have persuaded 20 Washington area businesses and dozens of Wilton Woods homeowners to donate cash, raw materials and labor to their memorial garden.
Only one business has turned them down so far, and the lone homeowner who opposed the project has since come around and given a $50 check to help maintain the garden, the organizers said.
"Before we even put out the [fundraising] fliers, people had started to volunteer and send checks. It just keeps snowballing into something bigger and nicer every day," Hiltajczuk said.
Although the memorial garden plan sprang up during one of the busiest seasons for local nurseries and landscaping companies, the donors said they don't mind sacrificing some of their prime work time.
"I imagine that if I sat back and thought about it, I wouldn't be doing as much as I am," said Butch Whitton, owner of Lost Creek Landscapes in Chantilly.
"But I sat around that first week watching television and I wanted to do something other than just donate money," Whitton, 34, said as he motioned to a forklift operator, showing him where to deposit a load of donated boulders. He and his employees have designed and installed the elaborate stonework and wheelchair-accessible paths around the memorial.
The local citizens association, Greater Wilton Woods, which represents 850 households, is acting as the financial clearinghouse for donations, and its president, Samuel P. McCutchen, is building the garden's bridge.
Neighborhood children are donating their allowances and making plans to raise money through a lemonade and water stand at the garden's community workdays. Hiltajczuk says the children's money will be used to plant an evergreen tree that neighborhood kids can then decorate for the holidays.
"I think it's really cool because they'll be able to drive by for years and remember that they helped make the garden," she said.
Beal said she's still designing the plantings -- unlike most projects, she can't pick whatever she wants but must instead work with what is donated. But the beds and trees will include native, drought-resistant species as much as possible to increase the garden's chances for long-term survival. A donated irrigation system will help, the organizers hope, and Beal said she expects her company, Garden Angel Designs, will provide long-term maintenance.
The organizers hope to finish installing the garden by mid-November, but they don't plan to hold a dedication ceremony until the one-year anniversary of the project -- by then all the plants will be firmly established and the flowers in bloom.
While the Wilton Woods garden is unusual among local efforts to memorialize the Sept. 11 tragedy, other organizations are contributing in other ways.
The Arlington County Police Department have had gray T-shirts specially printed up and are selling them to raise money for four charities helping the victims of the terrorist attacks: the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Pentagon Family Relief Fund and a fund for the families of the fire and police victims in New York. The county police logo is on the front of the shirts and a picture of the Pentagon is on the back. Inside the Pentagon shape are the word "Remember," an American flag, the date "9/11/01" and an image of the World Trade Center.
The police have sold nearly 300 of the shirts so far at a cost of $12 apiece, including shipping and handling. (For more information call 703-228-7403.)
On Friday, about 150 members of the Alexandria Fire Department and representatives of other local fire departments attended the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Ivy Hill Cemetery, in honor of Alexandria firefighters who have died, said spokeswoman Jane Malik.
No Alexandria firefighters have been killed in the line of duty since 1975, but a former member of the department, Andrew Fredericks, who worked in Alexandria in 1987 before joining the Fire Department of New York, died during the collapse of the World Trade Center.
In addition, several other former Alexandria firefighters who now work in New York participated in the rescue efforts there, and a current member of the Alexandria department, who used to work in New York, worked on rescue operations at both the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
The fire department raised nearly $35,000 for the 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund and presented the money along with a signed banner to a representative of the New York fire department at Friday's ceremony, Malik said.
Cash contributions for the garden can be sent to the Greater Wilton Woods Citizens Association, 3800 Ivanhoe Lane, Alexandria, Va. 22310. Those wishing to make in-kind donations or volunteer can e-mail email@example.com.
Los Angeles police Lt. Nancy Lauer, left, holds a shirt she bought from Officer Kip Malcolm of the Arlington County police. Arlington police are raising funds for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.