Lake Norman & Mooresville

World Trade Center beam to anchor town memorial

This steel beam will be the centerpiece of a memorial to those who died as a result of the 9-11 terror attacks.
This steel beam will be the centerpiece of a memorial to those who died as a result of the 9-11 terror attacks. COURTESY OF THE TOWN OF CORNELIUS

For now, an 8-foot-long, 3,000-pound portion of a beam, salvaged from the World Trade Center following the 2001 terrorist attacks, sits on a trailer inside Cornelius-Lemley Fire Station 1.

By Sept. 11, 2016, Cornelius officials say, the fire-damaged section of steel will be the centerpiece of a memorial to those who died as a result of the attacks, including emergency responders. The memorial will be built in front of the town’s main fire station, on Main Street.

“The town selected the location of Fire Station 1 for the monument to further acknowledge the impact of our country’s first responders who exhibited extraordinary selflessness and bravery following the attacks,” the town said in an announcement of the project.

A World Trade Center Project Committee made up of Cornelius firefighters, police officers, elected officials, citizens and art experts was scheduled to meet Sept. 10 to begin discussions on fund raising for the project, and a process for picking an artist or architect to design and create the piece.

“The process should be very similar to what we did for the (Cornelius) Veterans Monument,” said Town Manager Anthony Roberts.

For that monument, near the intersection of Main Street and Catawba Avenue, the town appointed a similar committee, which held an open contest for potential designs. The committee chose a plan from Pedra Grande Associates Inc., a Cornelius-based landscape architect firm.

The veterans monument, which includes the names of more than 1,100 former or current Cornelius residents who served in the Armed Forces, was officially dedicated during Veterans Day ceremonies on Nov. 11, 2011.

The town will issue a request for proposals for the World Trade Center memorial in the next few months, Roberts said.

“It should make for a really nice commemoration,” Roberts said.

The idea for a town 9/11 memorial came from Cornelius resident and New York native Harry Saake, Roberts said. When he and Saake began discussing the possibility two years ago, neither knew what form such a project might take, Roberts said. Research led them to the idea of procuring a piece of the World Trade Center.

Months of communication with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which maintains the wreckage of the World Trade Center, finally led to the donation of a section of beam.

“They are very protective (of what remains of the World Trade Center structure),” Roberts said of the Port Authority.

Roberts and Cornelius Public Works Supervisor Ricky Overcash drove to the New York area on Aug. 11, spent the night, then reported the next morning to John F. Kennedy Airport’s Hangar 17, an 80,000-square-foot structure where wreckage of 9/11 Ground Zero is stored.

“That was a powerful experience,” Roberts said of the building, which often is referred to as “the tomb of the unknowns.”

The beam was loaded on a trailer, and Roberts returned to Cornelius with the centerpiece of the town’s future 9/11 memorial the same day.

John Deem is a freelance writer:

Want to help?

The town has established a World Trade Center Project Fund. For more information on donating or about the project, contact Jen Crickenberger at 704-892-6031, ext. 166, or