There were hundreds of people gathered around the edges of the Overland Park 9-11 Memorial when the clock struck 7:46 a.m. Sunday. But the only sounds you could hear was the clear ringing of a single toll of the memorial’s bell, a marker of the moment that American Airlines flight 11 struck the north tower of the World Trade Center in 2001.
Completed in 2014, the memorial outside the Overland Park Fire Training Center at 12401 Hemlock St. typically serves as a quiet reminder to the city’s fire fighters of the sacrificers their counterparts in New York made that day.
But on the 15th anniversary of the attacks, a steady stream of people came to the site to watch firefighters mark the tragic milestones from that morning: American Airlines flight 175 striking the south tower at 8:03 a.m.; the south tower collapsing 56 minutes later; United Airlines flight 93 crashing into the ground outside Shanksville, Pa., at 9:03 a.m.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a 14-foot steel beam from the World Trade Center site that weighs two-and-a-half tons. The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey granted the city the right to the artifact after Overland Park firefighter Trevor Miller made a request for an item to serve as the focal point of a memorial in the city back in 2009. With nothing but private donations, the department was able to fund a stunning memorial display outside the entrance to the training center. In addition to the steel beam at its center, the memorial features four bronze panels telling the stories of the four flights felled in the attacks.
A hole in the top of the steel beam is aligned so that each Sept. 11, it casts a ray of sunlight onto the part of the educational panel telling the story of a specific event from the morning of the attacks.
Among the people who gathered at the memorial Sunday were dozens of riders from the American Legion Riders and the Kansas Patriot Guard. Director Lynn Atchison of Gardner said the group left the American Legion post in Olathe around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, with some 60 motorcycles escorted by two sheriff’s deputies.
“It’s something we don’t want anybody to forget,” Atchison siad. “It’s like some of the past wars that people are forgetting. If we let this one be forgotten, where are we going to be?…We’ve got to keep this alive and keep people remembering.”
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