It began with a single beam of steel.
When the massive artifact was pulled through the streets of Overland Park three years ago, it brought a solemn silence to a crowd of more than 1,000 people who stood to watch it pass by.
There it was, within touching distance, a real-life piece of history. An object physically touched by 9/11, bearing the scars of its fateful fall from the World Trade Center.
As the 14-foot steel column stood in its new home, the Overland Park Fire Training Center, a memorial was gradually built around it.
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Solely funded by donations and built with volunteered labor, the 9/11 Memorial is now complete.
At a final dedication ceremony on Thursday morning, city officials will thank the public and area businesses for its support. A memorial service will follow.
“This entire project has been the most gratifying experience you can ever imagine,” said Jason Rhodes, media manager for the Overland Park Fire Department. “To have the community come forward and be involved in every aspect, from bringing the piece of steel here to the landscaping, has been astounding and humbling. The community built its own memorial; the city is just the caretaker of it.”
The final stage of the project built this year includes three new additions to the memorial.
A new weeping wall features a waterfall made of melted steel, with water gently flowing from it.
“It represents the tears which were shed that day,” Rhodes said.
Donor panels are now installed, listing individuals and companies who offered impressive funds and services.
Also, two granite floor tiles from the World Trade Center are now embedded into the walkways leading up to the memorial. The pieces are engraved, “Honoring the Footsteps Gone Silent.”
The memorial also features a celestial time line, built in 2011, displayed on educational panels. On Sept. 11 of each year, sunlight beaming through a hole near the top of the column illuminates the name of each flight on the panels, at the exact time each plane crashed.
A labor of love, the city hopes the memorial will serve as an educational tool and a reflective haven for people across the region.
“This journey to completion has been several years in the making, but it has turned out phenomenal,” said Rhodes. “I’m excited that it’s completed. It’s really fantastic.”
The 9/11 memorial service will take place on Thursday at the Overland Park Fire Training Center, 12401 Hemlock Ave.
At 7 a.m., city officials will hold a dedication, telling the story about how the community came together to build the memorial.
From 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., there will be a ceremony featuring fire and police honor guards who will strike a bell and place flowers at sentinel times.