People teared up and laid hands on two rusted, twisted beams draped with an American flag Friday in Coeur d’Alene.
The two 5,000-pound beams, taken from the wreckage of the Twin Towers, are traveling across the country for use in a 9/11 memorial park in Silverdale, just north of Bremerton. The park will honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and serve an educational role for future generations, organizers say.
“If you want to get the feeling, climb up there and put your hands on the beams and say a prayer,” said John Ensminger, 67, of Post Falls, a Navy veteran.
Ensminger is a part of the North Idaho Patriot Guard, which will escort the beams from Post Falls to Ellensburg on Sunday, along with Eastern Washington affiliates. The beams will be on display today in Post Falls.
In Ellensburg the Seattle Patriot Guard will meet the procession to escort the beams the rest of the way.
Other spectators Friday included former Marines and firefighters, such as Mark Blackstone, of Coeur d’Alene.
“It’s hard to imagine the heat it takes to twist metal like that,” Blackstone said. “I don’t know how people can forget something like that.”
On Aug. 10, Lee and Donna Summers, two truck drivers from Texas, collected the beams from Hangar 17 at JFK International Airport in New York City, where much of the wreckage is stored. The couple said they have felt a range of emotions throughout their 10 days and 3,200 miles.
“It feels awesome, we’re proud and excited. But when we stop, people touch it and cry, and we feel it all over again,” Donna Summers said.
Some people are upset that flags wrap the beams. Although the couple did not make the decision to use the flags, they said they support it.
“We want people to know these are not steel beams, they are the remains of the World Trade Center during an act of war on the United States,” Lee Summers said. “They (represent) the remains of many people and they deserve to have the flag.”
The Kitsap community applied to the Port of Authority of New York and the September 11th Families Association to get the beams to make the memorial. The process took about nine months. Part of the reason Silverdale wanted the memorial is that it is a military community, said Ric Bornheimer, of Gig Harbor. There’s a naval station, submarine base and ammunition shipping port, to name a few, clustered in Kitsap County.
Organizers have not finalized a design or location for the memorial, Bornheimer said. They are raising funds; the memorial could cost up to $250,000. They do plan to have children design tiles to shape into a pentagon.
Private donations funded part of the trip, although one organization headed by a Kitsap community member is still trying to raise funds. They still need to raise $10,600 for transportation costs.
“It’s powerful to see,” said Ensminger. “Even for grown-ups, it’s emotional.”