Commentary: Out of the twisted metal a 9/11 memorial rises

The Kansas City StarSeptember 11, 2012 


Mary Sanchez is a columnist with the Kansas City Star.

MBR — Kansas City Star/MCT

The 14-foot hunk of twisted metal has proved capable of making grown men, arguably some of the metro’s bravest, swell with emotion.

It ought to affect everyone living here that way.

For more than a year, an ad hoc group of firemen, architects, landscapers and businessmen — a range of good-hearted people — has worked with the piece to create what should become one of the region’s most respected memorials.

The 5,600-pound piece of metal is a beam from the remains of the World Trade Center.

On Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a solemn ceremony will be held to dedicate the first phase of the project at the Overland Park Fire Training Center.

A hole near the upright beam’s tip is expected to act like a sundial, with light directed through it to mark the exact time each plane hit by illuminating intricately etched metal plates detailing the events of that horrific day.

The hole is man-made. As rescuers tried to send in dogs to find the scent of the still living, firemen would blowtorch holes into the fallen beams and hook them to be lifted. Dogs and rescuers could then search deeper. Shiver-inducing stories like that track throughout this project.

It’s the power of what the beam represents: the resolve of a nation attacked.

The memorial began with one fireman’s discovery that the New York Port Authority was taking applications to request pieces of the wreckage. Several local fire departments obtained them. They are all sacred. The Port Authority instructs recipients to treat them as remains.

But organizers believe the Overland Park effort is the most intricately designed and publicly accessible. New York officials told them that it was among the largest pieces awarded.

In New York, completion of the museum at ground zero is stalled amid squabbling between Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. It’s the money, a question of operating costs and say-so over control.

Our area is blessed with no such foolishness.

The memorial in Overland Park has come together through networking, friendships and people graciously stepping forward to help at critical junctures. No public dollars have been used, only private and in-kind donations. Church of the Resurrection, KC Arborist Tree Care, MIQ Logistics, SFA Architecture, JE Dunn and Zahner were among the most involved, but more than 100 people have helped.

Completing the memorial will require an estimated $60,000 in additional donations. To donate, go to

Ceremonies begin at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Overland Park Fire Training Center, 12401 Hemlock.

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