Hutch 9/11 memorial needs funds

HUTCHINSON — Backers of a planned memorial to victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks hope the national pride over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's killing will bring attention — and donations — to the project.

The planning began when the city received an I-beam from the World Trade Center for a memorial to be completed by the attack's 10th anniversary this year.

But fundraising sputtered, and the firefighters union leading the memorial effort so far has only an architect's plans. The I-beam has been stored at a Hutchinson fire station and is occasionally taken out for public displays.

Wes Stewart, secretary-treasurer of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 179, had been trying to reinvigorate the fundraising even before bin Laden was killed Sunday in Pakistan.

"The goal was to have something done by the 10-year anniversary," Stewart said. "But here we are, and it's May, and we're a long way from having anything done."

The original plan, designed by Lynn Schwartzkopf of Mann and Company Architects, includes a central platform where the 4-foot-long steel beam would be suspended between granite pillars. It was to be surrounded by a plaza made of paving bricks engraved with the names of the 343 firefighters who died, two flagpoles, ramps and a water feature.

That plan would have cost $200,000. Because the city is unlikely to spend tax dollars on the memorial, the union has been trying to raise donations for a scaled-down plan, which would include a platform only for the I-beam and the plaza. That would cost $50,000, Stewart said.

The union is selling commemorative paving bricks that would surround the memorial. An order form is available on the union's website, www.iaff179.com. So far, 23 bricks have been sold. The union also applied for a grant from a foundation.

Three potential sites are under consideration: on the Kansas State Fairgrounds, at a park across from Hutchinson City Hall or near a walking trail on the property where a new fire station will be built.