Communities across US seek WTC steel for memorials

More than 1,100 communities, military bases, airports, museums and other groups across the country have been granted a chunk of WTC steel


By Jeff Schweers
USA TODAY

ROCKLEDGE, Fla. — A 116-pound section of steel from the World Trade Center sits in a corner of Tim Matson's office.

It's in the same box as when it arrived seven months ago from Hangar 17 of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. And that is where it will stay until Rockledge officials design and build a pedestal and monument for it in a city park hopefully by this year's 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"We want to put it someplace open where people can sit and reflect on what happened that day, and remember the public-safety people that lost their lives," says Matson, the Emergency Management Services training chief for the Rockledge Fire Department.

More than 1,100 communities, military bases, airports, museums and other groups across the country have been granted a chunk of WTC steel, says Steve Coleman, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

All proposals had to meet one key criterion: The piece has to be used in a public display, he says. There is also a push to get the steel moved out of the hangar, Coleman says.

"We hope to have them all gone by Sept. 11," Coleman says. To date, about 40% of the groups have received their pieces, he says.

The steel is free, but the organizations that want it have to pay to transport it, Coleman says. Pieces range in size from small enough to ship to big enough to require a flatbed truck. The largest is 43 feet long.

The Port Authority will ship any piece under 150 pounds, he says. Anything larger, the group has to make its own arrangements. That has posed a challenge for some communities, he says.

"Some towns having a little difficulty getting transportation," Coleman says. "That's the one expense communities have to cover."

Last month, a pickup truck from the Napa Valley in California picked up its steel, Coleman says.

Project 911 Indianapolis made an event out of transporting home its two 22-foot-long internal support beams on a donated tractor-trailer rig by inviting motorcyclists to form an honor guard. The result: 11,000 bikers stretched for miles in the rain along Interstate 70, says Indianapolis firefighter-paramedic Greg Hess, the project's organizer.

"I was teary-eyed," Hess says.

The two steel beams will stand alongside each other in the same configuration as the World Trade Center's north and south towers on a downtown square along the White River Canal, next to Station 13 and several state buildings, he says.

"We couldn't have scripted a better location," he says.

Other communities plan memorials less grand in scale.

Fire Capt. Richard Bliven in Lyndon, Ky., a suburb of Louisville, says the original plan was to erect a monument in the fire department's memorial garden. But when the 2-foot-long, 120-pound piece of I-beam encased in concrete flooring arrived, he says officials decided instead to encase it in glass in the headquarters lobby.

"One thing we were concerned about is it had pieces of concrete attached to it," Blivens says. "We were afraid it would erode or come off or be picked off. We wanted to maintain it in the condition we received it ."

Several companies have looked at the piece and are working up estimates for the fire department, Blivens says.

"Once we get the estimates, we will move forward with that, so it will absolutely be done by the 10th anniversary," he says.

One proposal came from the family of Christina-Taylor Greene, the 9-year-old girl killed in the Jan. 8 rampage in Tucson that killed five others and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

Christina was born on Sept. 11, 2001, so her life was framed by two national tragedies. Her family wants to build a Steadfast Angel of Love sculpture in Tucson, said Leslie Shultz-Crist, president of San Miguel High School in Tucson.

"John and Roxanna, her parents, would be tremendously honored to have steel from the Port Authority incorporated in the Steadfast Angel," Shultz wrote in an e-mail to Port Authority officials.

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