3 local towns to unveil WTC steel beams

September 8, 2011

Three Chicago suburbs are among those fortunate enough to receive this honor.

First responders in southwest suburban Darien were filled with emotion when they got the news earlier this year they would be receiving a piece of steel from the World Trade Center to be used in their 9/11 memorial. They quickly assembled a team to travel to New York and pick up the eight-foot steel I-beam.

"The reason we took a team with us was our service is built on respect, and we felt we needed to respect this piece from the moment it became ours. And to get it to our community, we needed to escort it here and not just have it shipped or have somebody else bring it to us," said Chief Michelle Gibson, Tri-State Fire Protection District.

The beam was picked up in June and was brought into town with a motorcade escort. The response from the community was phenomenal, bringing together volunteers from surrounding suburbs.

"The people who put this project together are all firefighters and paramedics, and it's everything from planning the day out to building the monument and going and getting the piece of steel," said Deputy Chief Paul Ross, Tri-State Protection Fire District.

"When we designed the piece itself we needed to find out the requirements of what we could do with the steel, and once we learned what that was, we decided to go and upright the steel in the form of a ladder truck and form a reflection pond around the bottom and to bring a touch to it, to bring fire up from the water," said Jack Mancione, deputy chief of operations, Tri-State Fire Protection District.

Nancy DiCostanzo works in Darien. Her brother was one of the first firefighters to die at the World Trade Center. it was a powerful moment when she saw the steel beam.

"They brought it here to me while I was at work, and just seeing it and the memorial, I stopped by there the other day; it's nice to have the memories closer to home here where I live, where I can feel like he's closer to me," DiCostanzo said.

The completed memorial will be unveiled in a ceremony at 11 a.m. Sunday.

The Des Plaines Fire Department feels blessed to have acquired a 114-pound steel girder that was part of the World Trade Center.

"You can't help but look at it and realize all the lives that were connected with that piece of steel and how many people lost their lives, so you look at it and it's special to have it," said Ron Eilken,

deputy chief, Des Plaines Fire Dept.

The community came together, volunteering time, money, materials and design of the memorial.

"The idea was to keep the design very simple and rustic, and it's simply a vertical black granite tablet with the beam leaning up against it as if it's fallen over, and right in front is a bronze plaque that explains the memorial and its purpose," said Michael Feinberg, operations manager/designer, Peter Troost Monument Co.

"When they came up with this idea, we were originally looking for stone that would match from New York or Pennsylvania, and we didn't have the right size of stone; we just went through all these piles here and found some that that would fit," said Dwayne Ulrichs, GM, Lurvey's Landscape & Design.

The monument will be placed in front of the Des Plaines City Hall. The ceremony will be at 8 a.m. Sunday.

In Oak Lawn, four steel beams will be incorporated in the 9/11 memorial to be displayed near the Metra station.

"One of our lieutenants, Art Clark, who is currently on his fourth tour in Afghanistan, came to me two and a half years ago and said, 'What do you think,' -- when we got this letter from the Port Authority making steel available to police and fire – 'What do you think?' I said, 'I think it's a go,'" said William Villanova, Oak Lawn police chief.

"I spent a lot of time refining and developing the images so they work together like a piece of music," said Erik Blome, Sculptor 9. "The realistic images really humanize it; I was trying to put in the perspective of what a person felt that day who was in the street, who experienced the building, who was saved by a firefighter."

"I hope they realize what our first responders do every day. They put their lives on the line, and it's a tribute to them," said Dr. Sandy Bury, fundraising chair, Oak Lawn Rotary Club.

The dedication to the Oak Lawn 9/11 monument will be Sunday at 10 a.m.

While these memorials give people time to reflect and remember, they may also offer closure for those who haven't had the opportunity to visit Ground Zero.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey received more than 900,000 applications for the 1,100 pieces of steel from the towers. There was no charge for the steel, but one of the rules for the World Trade Center beams is that it must be displayed somewhere available for public viewing.

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