Illinois Department Creates 9/11 Memorial

Ann Piccininni, Chicago Daily Herald

For those who experienced the events of September 11, 2001, the memory is indelible. The shock, fear and sorrow that followed the destruction of the World Trade Center, the plane attack on the Pentagon and the downing of Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field reverberated throughout the world.

But for those who were young or not yet born, there are no memories, only historical accounts.

To bring the reality of that day into strong relief, especially for those who can’t remember, and to honor the many heroes who reacted selflessly that day, the Glenside Fire Protection District recently installed a September 11 memorial in the fire district’s firehouse lobby at 1608 Bloomingdale Road, Glendale Heights.

“One of our newest members of the department, he was 6 years old at the time. For him it’s not anything he remembers,” Glenside Fire Chief Russell Wood said.

Wood, a driving force behind assembling the memorial, said it’s vital to preserve records of that day’s events.

“This can happen at any time. We need to stay prepared. We need to say vigilant,” he said. “We start to get complacent. We still need a reminder.”

Wood said he remembers that day clearly. He was working for the Glenside Fire Protection District.

“I was working as a fire inspector,” he said, recalling that he and his colleagues watched the events unfold on television. “I think we were all in disbelief about what was going on.

“In that disaster, 343 firefighters died,” Wood said, adding that 72 law enforcement officers also lost their lives while responding to the tragic events. “That was the worst day in our (collective firefighter) history. We don’t want people to forget that day or the impact it had on our country.”

September 11 memorials proliferate throughout the country, many of them created by emergency first responders such as fire and police personnel.

“We are the 36th fire department in the state of Illinois that has gotten a piece of steel from the World Trade Center,” said Wood, adding that similar memorials have been created in neighboring suburbs, including Bartlett and Carol Stream.

An outdoor memorial alongside the Riverwalk in Naperville displays a beam from the tower wreckage, fragments from the facade of the Pentagon and granite from Pennsylvania, along with a plaque in remembrance of Navy Commander Dan F. Shanower, a Naperville Central High School graduate who was killed in the Pentagon attack.

The Glenside memorial includes artifacts from all three attack sites, Wood said.

“There’s a piece of steel from the World Trade Center site. There is a container of debris, which includes dirt and gravel and other items from the crash site in Pennsylvania. And there’s limestone from the Pentagon,” said Wood. Photos depicting the events are mounted on the wall behind each piece.

“It is a very moving effect,” he said.

Securing the artifacts was a long-term project. Wood said he and his staff worked with officials and attorneys affiliated with the Port Authority of New York and of New Jersey.

“It took us about eight years to get them, with all the hoops we had to jump through. The World Trade Center is considered a crime scene. Everything there is considered evidence. The judge has to OK it to go out,” Wood said.

The memorial cost about $4,000, Wood said. The pedestals were the largest expense, he said. There was a minimal charge for the artifacts themselves; the fire district had to pay only shipping charges. Wood said firefighters contributed $2,000 to the effort. The remainder of the cost came out of the district’s budget, he said.

Since it was installed a few weeks ago, school groups and others have visited the firehouse to see the memorial, said Wood, who added that he’s pleased to see the interest.

“We’ve had people come in and basically stand in awe,” he said. “As it starts to get written in the history books, this will help.”

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