© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Belleville dedicates Sept. 11 memorial

courtesy of September 11 Memorial Walkway

Organizers were expecting hundreds to attend Sunday’s dedication of a Sept. 11 memorial in Belleville that includes a steel beam from the World Trade Center.

The ceremony is at 2 p.m. and will mark the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The September 11 Memorial Walkway of Southern Illinois honors all of the victims that day — at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. But it is also a tribute to the rescuers and to the survivors, many of whom are still suffering, said Sharon Strausbaugh, president of the committee that’s been raising funds for design and construction.

“The last plaque says, ‘We can’t reverse the pain and injustice that occurred that day, but we can remember those who died and came to aid and rescue, and those who showed love and compassion on 9/11 and in the days that followed,' '' she said.

In that way, the memorial serves as a tribute to the American spirit, she said.

“It shows the resolve of Americans to come back after tremendous tragedy. This is what America is about. People joining together, doing what’s right. Doing what’s good and continuing forward,” she said.

The artifact from the World Trade Center is 32 feet long and weighs more than 7,000 pounds. It will be suspended between two concrete columns signifying the twin towers. The memorial is located on the lawn of the city’s Fire Administration Building and Engine House 4, at the intersection of Illinois 159 and Highway 15.

“It is in front of the firehouse where we can have our firefighters watching over it all day and all night. And it’s very visible from the highway,’’ Strausbaugh said.

Credit courtesy of September 11 Memorial Walkway
The New York Port Authority gave the artifact to the city of Belleville in 2011. It was unveiled to the public at that year's Labor Day parade.

The steel beam was given to the city of Belleville by the New York Port Authority.

The memorial is being constructed with private donations and will be completed in phases, Strausbaugh said. This first phase cost more than $100,000, but that figure doesn’t include donations of time, labor and materials.

“It’s remarkable how many people came forward to help,’’ she said. “Everybody remembers where they were on Sept. 11, 2001, if they were alive then. It’s been remarkable to us to see schoolchildren who started a collection for the memorial. They understood either from a parent or a schoolteacher or a church pastor the significance of the memorial.’’

The memorial will include a timeline of the attacks that will tell the story of Sept. 11 for future generations, she said.

The guest speaker at Sunday’s dedication will be Col. Laura L. Lenderman, commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing at Scott Air Force Base. The ceremony is free and open to the public. Because parking at the site is limited, shuttles will provide transportation from the Elks Lodge, 1481 S. Illinois St. 

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.