World Trade Center steel aimed for Sept. 11 memorial starts cross-country trip

WASHINGTON — Sixteen tons of steel taken from the ruins of the World Trade Center towers sat idly on the back of a flatbed truck Tuesday, held in place by industrial strength cording.

On Sept. 11, the once straight, solid beams eventually gave way to the stress from the collapsing towers. The only menace the twisted metal beams now posed was as a painful reminder of what happened that day.

The steel is traveling across the country as part of a tour to promote "Freedom’s Flame," a proposed memorial to the 71 law enforcement workers who died in the collapse of the twin towers in New York.

The World Trade Center steel was on display across the street from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Park during a brief midday ceremony in which organizers placed a wreath next to the inscribed names of the officers who died that day.

The organizers, from Southern California, hope to build a memorial in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., that incorporates the steel and later construct a duplicate memorial to be donated to New York City. They estimate construction of the two memorials will take three years and cost $9 million.

"We could have just taken this metal and shipped it on a train back to California, but that’s not the point," said Chuck Williams, director of the project. "The purpose of Freedom’s Flame is to remind people to never, never, never, never forget. We have too much forgetting in this country."

People nationwide saw the terrorist attacks unfold on their television screens, Williams said, "but when they actually see that twisted steel, they understand the power of what the terrorists did on American soil to the people in those buildings."

The design proposed by architect William Lecky, who was involved in the creation of the Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Veterans memorials, has 30 7-foot figures ascending and descending a staircase that wraps around a giant stainless steel flame.

Survivors would be shown rushing down the stairs and leaving the scene, while police officers and firefighters rush up the stairs to help others.

The flame and the base would form a sundial charting each tragic event of Sept. 11, from the time the first plane hit to the time the second tower fell. The time of each event would be carved into the base of the memorial.

The stainless steel used to build the memorial would be cast in gray to mimic the ash and smoke that covered Ground Zero. The steel beams currently touring the county would be used in the memorial’s inner structure.

The memorials would also include a fragment of limestone from the Pentagon and "something from Shanksville," Lecky said, referring to Shanksville, Pa., the crash site of the fourth hijacked plane.

Tuesday was the second day of the 11-day cross-country tour that will wind up in Southern California on Independence Day. A charter bus trailing the flatbed truck carried a message in 5-foot-tall white letters on its sides.

The sign read, "Let’s Roll," words said by Todd Beamer of Cranbury, N.J., who with other passengers challenged the hijackers of the airplane that went down near Shanksville. The nation has embraced those words as an expression of determination.
© 2002, McClatchy/Tribune Information Services