A 10-foot steel I-beam from the World Trade Center that will become a central piece of a public art project at San Luis Obispo’s main fire station was unveiled Thursday at a ceremony commemorating the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The beam, recovered from the mangled rubble left when the twin towers fell, will be transformed from a symbol of devastation into a work of art honoring the fallen.
Thursday’s event at the Laguna Lake Golf Course was attended by more than 150 people — many in uniform — who gathered to pay tribute to the 2,977 people killed when four planes hijacked by al-Qaida terrorists slammed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
The city of San Luis Obispo and American Legion Post 66 hosted the ceremony. Among those attending were students from Laguna Middle School, many of whom were born after the attacks.
Their teacher, Vinetta Negranti, was honored at the ceremony for her longstanding dedication to the annual memorial and for sharing the historical importance of the day with her students year after year.
The steel beam, which weighs 1,275 pounds, was delivered to the city in 2009 by Jim Trask, a local artist and retired firefighter who drove across the country to get it.
The following year, the City Council allocated $70,000 for the memorial.
The beam will be installed permanently in a circular courtyard at the front entrance of the fire station on Santa Barbara Street in 2015.
“For our community, completion of this memorial represents years of effort to secure the beam, bring it back to San Luis Obispo and work through the public art process with great stakeholders to select a design that is befitting the events of 9/11 and our desire to have a place to pay respect and educate future generations,” San Luis Obispo fire Chief Garret Olson said.
Artist Kathleen Caricof’s design, called “Standing Tall,” will pay tribute to the 403 emergency workers who died while helping others try to escape the World Trade Center towers before they fell. Tall metal posts — 343 firefighters represented by reddish/rusted steel and
60 police officers represented by blue anodized aluminum — will be embedded in an arc around the circular plaza.
The beam will be prominently displayed at the center of the plaza, with benches allowing visitors to sit and contemplate the memorial. The words “honor,” “hope,” “strength” and “integrity” will be inscribed on the concrete walls of the plaza.
“I am beyond honored to have this memorial just a few yards outside my office door,” Olson said. “I am proud to have served in a support role for ground zero operations in New York in 2001.”
Olson, who then worked as a battalion chief at the Mesa Fire Department, assisted for two weeks as a government liaison between the city of New York and the American Red Cross.
“This memorial honors those who were lost or suffered on 9/11 and includes words that capture the character of those who rushed in to help. I can’t think of a better way to start and end every day than to experience this memorial,” he said.