Gary Fisher was driving to his job as fire chief in Yuma, Ariz., on Sept. 11, 2001, when he heard on the radio that one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center had been hit. His reaction was disbelief and despair.
Fifteen years later, Fisher is fire chief in North Kansas City and has been part of an effort to create and dedicate a monument to the victims of the 9/11 disaster with two artifacts from the fallen towers. Fisher says the monument has special meaning to public safety officers and the public.
“There’s a price to pay for freedom. This country stands for things that are good, and there are a lot of people out there that would like to see us fail. And that monument represents our continuing efforts to be the greatest country in the world.”
North Kansas City will unveil the monument and its 9/11 artifacts — two pieces of floor joists set in granite — at a ceremony at 2 p.m. Sept. 11 at the North Kansas City Hall.
The idea for the memorial originated with city treasurer Beverly Sue Ryan, a longtime North Kansas City resident and former Clay County public administrator. Ryan downplays her role in the memorial saying that after reading a newspaper article about another community obtaining a 9/11 artifact, she thought it would be nice for North Kansas City.
“So I Googled and made contact with this lady in New York. And the rest is history.”
Ryan contacted the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The agency had been charged with giving away more than 2,600 items recovered from the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks.
“It just fell in place so easy. It was amazing to me…all we needed was a letter from the mayor and maybe the fire chief assuring them that we would do something appropriate with the artifact and that it would not be lying around some place.”
Mayor Don Stielow appointed a committee to come up with a plan for displaying the artifact. Members included Fisher, Ryan, council member Bill Sanders, city judge Steve Fuller, and Shelly Pinto — the mayor’s daughter, and the artist who created a design for the monument after input from the committee.
“We all gasped when we saw her drawing and it was perfect, and we thought, ‘Why didn’t we think of this before?’” Ryan said.
The monument has a granite base with a vertical groove down the middle that represents the twin towers. The two artifacts, which Ryan describe as “oversized rebar,” are set vertically into the top of the granite.
“I saw the tower, then thought, why not make it one single piece of concrete — the rebar going up as a flame or smoke, something ascending, moving upward,” Pinto said.
A plaque on the monument reads:
In remembrance of those who perished
Dedicated September 11, 2016
World Trade Center Artifact
“I think that it’s good to recognize all the people that were there,” Fisher said. “Just really create a remembrance so that we don’t forget that sort of thing.”
The committee also decided that the memorial should be free-standing, something people could walk around. While it will reside in the city hall initially, Fisher said the plan is to move the monument to Macken Park once a planned civic center is completed there.
The artifacts are bar joists that were once part of a flooring support within the trade center.
“It’s 1-inch bar stock. Steel bars that made up those joists that are still recognizable but just barely,” Fisher said. “It was (from) one of the twin towers. We don’t know what which building it was.”
While North Kansas City was pursuing efforts to obtain an artifact, Pleasant Valley Fire Chief Robert Stinson had applied for an artifact for Pleasant Valley. The fact that both municipalities were applying for artifacts was a sheer coincidence, Stinson said.
In early spring, Stinson and his son drove to New York City to pick up Pleasant Valley’s artifacts: 300 pounds of steel. The 9/11 artifacts had been stored in an airport hangar at JFK International Airport. While there, he was asked if he wanted to transport North Kansas City’s artifacts back to Missouri, also.
“It worked out pretty good for everyone,” said Stinson — who happens to also be a fireman/paramedic for North Kansas City.
Pleasant Valley’s artifacts will be displayed at the new Pleasant Valley Fire Station, which is expected to be open later this year.