By: Tammy Schmidt Issue: Rebuilding Our Infrastructure Section: Collaboration
The Arrival of the 9/11 Memorial in Denver
It might have gone unnoticed, a huge piece of twisted steel riding across the country on a flatbed trailer. What drew attention to the giant mound of metal was the American flag, draped and billowing in the backdraft of a semi tractor, cutting through the nation’s summer heat.
The driver of the truck, John O’Dell, could hear the chatter on the CB radio as he drove from state to state. “What’s the deal with that hunk of metal?” an unknown trucker would ask. The reply, “It’s a piece of the World Trade Center from September 11th.” Then the citizen’s band (CB) would light up.
“We would only stop for gas and rest stops, and people would come up to ask about it. They would ask if they could touch it. That was very moving, “O’Dell said. Through some parts of the country, citizens lined the roadway to pay their respects as it came by. O’Dell remembers Saint Louis, Missouri in particular, where it took him hours to drive just a few miles through the city.
The rusted and shredded steel is among 16 artifacts from the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. It was accepted by the state of Colorado to commemorate the tragedy that happened half a continent away, yet impacted all of us as a nation. The move and its subsequent exhibition was sponsored by The Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab (The CELL), The Denver Post, 9News KUSA-TV, The Anschutz Foundation, MDC Richmond Homes Foundation, Liberty Media, the Civic Center Conservancy, the Colorado Air National Guard, and CAP Worldwide.
Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia referred to the artifacts as, “A graphic reminder of that day almost ten years ago—twisted, lifeless, inanimate pieces of steel that remind us of the thousands of lives that were lost that day and the millions of lives that were affected by the events of that day.” The CELL curates exhibits as education on today’s threats of global terrorism, and the Trade Center artifacts will be a part of the redesigned exhibit. Some pieces will also be made into a memorial in Babi Yar Park in Denver and eventually in other communities throughout Colorado.
“These artifacts stand as a stark reminder to Colorado, to Denver, indeed to all of us as Americans of our obligation to remain vigilant and work together to keep our communities, our state and our country safe and secure,” said, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on August 8th, the first day that the warped steel was on display in Denver. A small crowd gathered in front of Denver’s City and County Building to see the pieces of the Twin Towers up close. Wendy Young brought her five young children to see the display. Her oldest is 10, and was born exactly a month after the 9/11 attacks; the youngest is a toddler. Young tried to prepare them for what they would see, not knowing how it might impact them. “It’s difficult for them to understand, but I think definitely necessary for them to see just even a little piece of history to try to help them understand what happened,” she said.
Gerri Szadaj and Linda Kent brought flowers to lay before the World Trade Center remains. “When it hit it kind of struck everybody—united everybody. And this way, it gives us a chance to pay our respects,” said Szadaj.
Even 10 years later, the sight of the steel stirs deep emotions—sadness, shock, and once again, pride. “It was truly a life changing event, I think, for so many people, individually and as a country,” Kent added.
The artifacts will be on display again on September 11th, as Denver memorializes the 10th anniversary of the attacks. It will be an event that Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia describes as an opportunity to “…give the people of Colorado a forum to come together and salute America’s will to prevail.” The day will be punctuated with free performances by the Colorado Symphony, the Colorado Children’s Choral, and The Beach Boys.