9/11 memorial could move to Salem fire station

Carmen Forman The Roanoke Times

Salem officials agree a local fire station might be the best new home for the 9/11 memorial that was donated to the city following a local controversy.

The World Trade Center steel under discussion Photo Roanoke Times

The World Trade Center steel under discussion Photo Roanoke Times

While a six-person committee is considering several locations for the memorial, city council members overwhelmingly agreed the grounds of a public safety building downtown seem most appropriate for the two steel beams from the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

In a work session Monday, four city council members supported relocating the memorial to in front of fire station No. 1 on Market Street in Salem. Mayor Randy Foley was absent from the work session and later council meeting.

“With the fire department, police department and what went on in New York, that’s an ideal place,” Vice Mayor John Givens said. “That’s where my vote goes.”

Controversy erupted earlier this month when Old Virginia Brick was auctioning off the memorial, erected in 2003, as part of the company’s foreclosure liquidation. The 125-year-old company suspended its operations earlier this year and went into foreclosure last month.

Numerous citizens said they felt it was unscrupulous for Old Virginia Brick to sell the memorial and wanted it to stay within city limits. After the auction received national media attention, those in charge of liquidating company assets decided to give the monument to Salem.

Salem officials are considering at least three other memorial locations including the library, Longwood Park and Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium. City Manager Kevin Boggess said the somber memorial might not be the best fit for one or more of those locations because they are intended for entertainment and amusement.

 

“When you’re looking at four of these locations, three involve recreation,” City Councilwoman Lisa Garst said.

Committee members will visit each of the proposed locations next week and make a recommendation to city council soon thereafter.

Sellers of Old Virginia Brick want the memorial removed from the West Main Street site before the property sale is complete at the end of July. Salem might have to build a new base for the monument, but city officials hope it will be securely in place at a new location before September 11.

City council members agreed the best way to welcome the new memorial is with a 9/11 ceremony on the 14th anniversary of the attacks, which will coincidentally kick off Olde Salem Days, scheduled to start the following day.

“This has made the community embrace the monument in a way that they wouldn’t have if there hadn’t been this controversy,” Boggess said.

The city is counting on in-kind donations to move the monument and build a new base.

Relocating it could also mean removing a plaque that acknowledges the memorial’s previous corporate owners and includes Bible verses.

A member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation already sent the city a letter warning them not to include the old plaque at the new memorial site.

“Someone warned me this would happen and it came more quickly than I thought,” Boggess said.

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