By Elizabeth DePompei Cincinnati.com
In Crescent Springs Community Park, there sits a large slab of concrete with five sides and a flat top. It is not part of the playground, not a bench for weekend picnickers. A sign nearby explains that it is something much greater. One date written in shorthand, and we understand what it is for.
This is the foundation of a memorial of one of America’s saddest stories. This is how we, and everyone after us, will remember 9/11.
Amid the chaos in the weeks following September 11, 2001, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey formed a committee with the task of collecting debris and wreckage from ground zero – everything from lost shoes and credit cards to crushed emergency vehicles and twisted ladders.
Along with everything else, several tons of mangled steel from the World Trade Center were collected and stored in Hangar 17 of John F. Kennedy International Airport. The 80,000-square-foot hangar quickly became a chilling gravesite for the almost 3,000 lives lost.
Beyond scientific evidence, the salvaged steel has come to serve as the centerpiece of over 1,000 9/11 memorials across the world. Each of the 50 United States and seven foreign countries are [sic] home to at least one piece of fallen steel.
In Northern Kentucky, one piece of steel belongs to the Crescent Springs/Villa Hills Fire and EMS Department. After submitting a letter of intent, the department was granted a 2 feet by 4 feet piece of steel.
Fire Chief Jeff Wendt and Assistant Fire Chief Roy East, along with two other firefighters, drove nearly 700 miles to New York City to retrieve the 300 pound piece of steel. Together they visited ground zero and spent time at Ten House, the firehouse that was the first to respond on 9/11 and was the only firehouse inside ground zero. Ten House lost six brave men that day.
“It was a pretty somber kind of thing, especially in the firehouses. Those guys, they’re just like us,” said Wendt.
Like the other recipients, Wendt promised the Port Authority to memorialize the steel in a public area – a promise they needed help keeping.
For that, the Northern Kentucky 9/11 Memorial Committee was formed. Headed by Crescent Springs City Councilman and Air Force veteran Lou Hartfiel, the committee’s job was to design a memorial incorporating the steel and raise the money needed for building and design.
On the sign next to the memorial’s foundation, a digital rendering shows us a shining black base where now there is concrete. Two identical, 12-foot towers rise from the pentagon shaped base.
Cradled beneath the towers lay a piece of rusted steel.
Designed by Nancy Holian of Holian Granite & Bronze in Florence, the memorial will be made of solid black granite. A timeline of the day’s tragic events will be engraved on the memorial as well as images on each side of the pentagon base paying tribute to the groups deeply affected by the attacks: firefighters, police officers, airline employees, Pentagon victims, and civilians.
To complete the memorial, the committee needs to raise $150,000. In over two years of fundraising, the committee has raised $53,000. One obstacle, says Hartfiel, may be getting the word out.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people in the three counties (Boone, Kenton and Campbell) who don’t even know about the memorial even though we’ve been pushing it quite a bit.”
Hartfiel explains that the memorial is not the Crescent Springs 9/11 Memorial; it is a memorial for all of Northern Kentucky.
“There are about 389,000 people in those three counties, and if only 40 percent would donate one dollar, that would be enough to complete the memorial.”
With plans to mail fliers with donation requests to Northern Kentucky residents (a way to make sure more people learn about the memorial), local fundraising events on the horizon and hopes for more corporate donations, Hartfiel and the committee aren’t ready to give up.
In April, the committee ordered the two towers for the memorial. They are a sign of the progress made and a promise to the community that it will be built.
“We’re going to keep plugging away at it. We’re committed to that. We didn’t think it would take this long to do it, but whatever it takes, it’s going to get done.”
The steel will be on view Saturday at the Crescent Springs/Villa Hills Funfest 2013 in Crescent Springs Community Park at 800 Buttermilk Pike. There will be games for children, music and food for sale. Festivities begin at 2 p.m. and end at dusk. Proceeds from the festival will go toward completion of the Northern Kentucky 9/11 Memorial.
Last Friday, a 408-foot, 758-ton spire was finally completed on top of One World Trade Center, the renovated site of the original Twin Towers. It took over 11 years and billions of dollars to reach its final height of 1,776 feet.
Whatever it took, it got done.
Donations can be mailed to: Northern Kentucky 911 Memorial, 739 Buttermilk Pike, Crescent Springs, KY41017