"Everybody knows the photograph," he said, holding up a Newsweek cover that he had used as a model. The photograph had first been taken on Sept. 11, 2001 by the Record of Hackensack by photographer Thomas E. Franklin. It depicts three firefighters raising the American flag over the ruins of the World Trade Center. It was a photograph that circled the globe and became a symbol of American resolve and hope. Locally, it won awards from the New Jersey Press Association and the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
"I thought about doing it for a long time," said Simone, who runs Stefano's Jewelers in Secaucus. "It took me about six months off and on to finish them."
To date, Simone has engraved three plaques, which he is hoping to give to Mayor Rudy Gulliani, Gov. George Pataki and President George W. Bush.
In his version, Simone has sculpted the three firefighters, flagpole, ropes and flag in silver - with only the flag colored in red, white and blue. Each plaque uses 10 ounces of silver.
"I tried to color in the figures," he said. "but it came out looking too much like a cartoon."
As in the original photograph, Simone has included a piece of the World Trade Center wreckage in the background.
The background proved a challenge for him, trying to find the appropriate material. Eventually, he used impressed silver to simulate the twisted outer skin of the World Trade Center.
The process of making such things is very complicated, and involves carving an initial wax impression, and the use of latex to create a mold, photo plate and etching. Simone said he would not put a price on each piece, although is considering developing a limited edition that he would create, sell, then destroy the molds.
This was not Simone's first expression of grief over the gigantic tragedy that overtook New York City and the nation on Sept. 11, 2001. In the months following the attack, Simone dressed up the windows of his Paterson Plank Road jewelry store with patriotic themes. He and his family had known Steven Strobert and Michael Tanner, two of the Secaucus victims in the WTC attack.
"I needed ways to express my feelings," the jeweler said.
Currently, he is looking for a way to deliver his gifts, and has reached out to area congressmen and senators in order to have them help facilitate the delivery.
"I want to give these to the mayor, the governor and the president myself," he said.