Looking Back for Tomorrow's Tribute

Paul Versluis

When Overland Park Fire Department firefighter Trevor Miller was surfing the Web one day in October 2010, he never imagined the link he clicked on would eventually lead to a commemorative dedication to that historically devastating day in September 10 years ago. But because he chose to click on that link, and because he and so many others have stepped up to help, Johnson County will proudly unveil a memorial dedicated to the tragedy of 9-11 that is sure to not only evoke deep emotional response, but also educate future generations.


From application to access

Miller was reading a firefighter news Web site when something about September 11th caught his eye. He learned that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had debris from the disaster and had opened the possibility of obtaining a piece for fire departments and municipalities around the nation.

“When all debris was moved from the site,” Miller explains, “each piece was inspected by a committee of evidence teams and architects. The pieces were either tagged for evidence and moved to Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, or preserved for the onsite museum memorial in New York City.”

After that tedious process, nearly 1,000 pieces remained to divide among applicants and transport for memorials around the country.

Miller was immediately moved to act. After receiving permission and support from Overland Park Fire Department Captain Paul Bishoff and Chief Bryan Dehner to research more, he learned that the application process was extensive—but he persevered. Miller envisioned a memorial that would preserve history, pay respect to the victims, educate generations, and unite a community.

After nearly nine months, Miller’s efforts paid off. Members of the Overland Park Fire Training Center found out they were granted an artifact from 9-11, but they had no idea how large the piece would be.


The artifact arrives

On July 24, 2011, a 14-foot tall piece of one of the World Trade Center buildings, which once stood more than1,360 feet tall, arrived in Overland Park. As it traveled down Metcalf Avenue, Miller says the reaction from bystanders was very quiet, a moment loaded with a palpable sense of emotion. People stood in silence holding signs and flags.

“It was very ceremonial,” Miller says. “What on the surface is a cold piece of steel and concrete is actually a representation of people’s lives.”

Since there were far more applications than pieces available, Miller says Overland Park was “blessed to get whatever we could, let alone one this large.”

The goal was to get the piece here before September 11, 2011, but after figuring out how to transport the enormous piece, filing legal paperwork to transfer custody and release liability, and filing an insurance policy, time was running out. However, Miller, Bishoff, Dehner, and other members of the OPFD persisted and on 9/11/11, a dedication ceremony took place at 12401 Hemlock Street, home of the OPFD Training Center and future site of the 9-11 Memorial. The memorial is scheduled to be unveiled on Sept. 11, 2012.


Awe-inspiring architecture

According to Miller, the artifact from the World Trade Center is most likely from a corridor, stairwell, or parking garage. Once the memorial is complete, the piece will stand upright as it once did in NYC. Surrounding this 14-foot-tall piece of one of the most renowned architectural constructs in history will be learning areas describing all events from 9-11. The memorial, being designed by SFS Architects of Kansas City, will represent all events from that historic day, not just the towers collapsing.

“We want to honor all four flights from that day,” says SFS architect Michael Christianer. “It is meant to be contemplative and educational. A series of panels will describe each flight, so future generations can learn what happened that day, beginning at 7:46 a.m.”

One aspect of the memorial is the celestial timeline that will acknowledge the time of impact of each plane. The sun will pierce the shadow of the artifact through an aperture that was created while it lay at ground zero.

“When this happens, a beam will shine on each educational panel at the exact time that each plane crashed,” Christianer says.

Names will be etched in plaques to honor those who perished on that day that changed history. A weeping wall with water flowing over eroded metal will stand at one end of the grounds to symbolize the tears from victims and their families.


All-for-one cause

The entire process—from bringing this artifact from the collapsed World Trade Center to Overland Park, to designing the memorial, to ensuring it is constructed with the utmost respect—is a community effort, and the result will be a public place for contemplation, learning, and ensuring the most devastating event in our nation’s recent past isn’t forgotten.

“The team at SFS Architecture is honored to be a part of this; it is such a rare opportunity,” Christianer says. “The city, the fire department, parks and rec … everyone has come together.”

The memorial will be the first 9-11 memorial constructed in the Kansas City area; currently the nearest one is in St. Charles, Mo.

“This is one of the largest pieces released from the World Trade Center, and the memorial is going to be for the entire community, not just for Johnson County, but for all of Kansas City,” Miller says.


Thank-You Note

These companies and organizations have donated time, services, and funds for the 9-11 Memorial planned to be unveiled on Sept. 11, 2012 at the Overland Park Fire Department:


Arts and Recreation Foundation of Overland Park

Church of the Resurrection

KC Arborist Tree Care

MIQ Logistics

Overland Park Fire Department

SFS Architecture


Plans are underway, but there is much to do to ensure this memorial comes to fruition. Visit this link for a video on the memorial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABbGvbW18A8&feature=email


To find out how you can help, visit www.artsandrec-op.org.

Companies are encouraged to participate in this tax-deductible donation opportunity sponsored by the Arts and Recreation Foundation.


Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Features