Local 9/11 memorial taking big step toward reality

One year ago, a flatbed truck rolled into Overland Park carrying a piece of history: a one-ton steel beam from the fallen World Trade Center.

On Monday, Overland Park will break ground on a memorial site that will feature the 14-foot artifact along with four education panels. Excavation is expected to begin at 10 a.m. in a grassy lot next to the Overland Park Fire Training Center at 12401 Hemlock. Officials hope the first phase of the memorial will be completed by Sept. 11 so it can be dedicated on the 11th anniversary of the tragedy.

Overland Park firefighters requested the steel remnant in 2010 through a program from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The application was approved last year and MIQ Logistics offered to haul the steel to Overland Park. The burned and charred I-beam arrived last July and was placed in storage while the Arts and Recreation Foundation of Overland Park began fundraising efforts, including finding firms to donate design and construction services.

The memorial is being financed completely with private donations. The foundation has raised enough money so far to cover excavation of the site, the concrete foundation, placement of the artifact and steel educational panels. The artifact and panels will be situated so that every year on Sept. 11, the sun will shine through a hole in the steel I-beam and illuminate a timeline on the education panels that shows when each of the four airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. The light will shine on each flight at the exact time each plane went down, said Overland Park Fire spokesman Jason Rhodes.

The foundation is working to raise money for a second phase for the memorial, which will add a “crying wall” fountain, stone benches, donor panels and a panel listing the names of all the victims killed.

Firefighters hope the memorial will become a regional attraction where people can learn about the tragedy and pay their respects, Rhodes said.

“We can’t wait to see it come to fruition,” he said. “There isn’t going to be anything like it in the area.”