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Communities Nationwide Create Local Monuments With Sept. 11 Artifacts


Today is the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. People across the country are paying respects this morning at memorial sites. And for many communities far from New York, local monuments that incorporate some of the artifacts from the wreckage hold a special value. Shumita Basu from member station WNYC reports.

SHUMITA BASU, BYLINE: Why, of all places, does Gibsonburg, Ohio, have a 7,000-pound hunk of steel from the Twin Towers in New York?

MARC GLOTZBECKER: Why not Gibsonburg? You know, let Ginsberg be the place that inspires people to move forward.

BASU: Marc Glotzbecker, the village administrator, reached out to the Port Authority when he found out they were giving away ground zero artifacts. Gibsonburg, a town of just 2,600 people in northwest Ohio, ended up with one of the largest pieces, a 36-foot-long antenna from the North Tower. It now sits atop a 17-foot replica of the New World Trade Center.

GLOTZBECKER: We don't want what happened on that day to be relegated to just a TV show or a textbook. We wanted something physical that they can learn from.

BASU: Lots of New Yorkers have visceral memories of that day - how thick the air was, the smell, the unbelievable amount of dust. These artifacts represent the trauma, the mythology and the patriotism of 9/11. That's what draws visitors to these local monuments. If you drive along Highway 23 in Minnesota, you'll see signs for a memorial in Rockville, a small, granite-quarry town northwest of Minneapolis. Daryl Steil, who spearheaded efforts to get a twisted, six-foot I-beam to Rockville, says it's hard to explain. But the piece of steel has the same effect on everyone.

DARYL STEIL: Am I crazy or what? But this piece of metal is drawing me to touch it. There's something there. And then everybody says, no, we can feel it. It's driving me to that piece of metal. So there are spirits there.

BASU: The beam sits on a podium made of Rockville's famous granite. And Daryl Steil says, sure, they could've made a memorial without the artifact. But its presence is filled with meaning.

STEIL: We all lost something that day, whether we were there or not.

BASU: Memorial events are planned for today at many of the over 1,000 memorials made with ground zero artifacts, from Pompeii to Fukushima to Carson City. For NPR News, I'm Shumita Basu.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRISTEZA'S "FIRST LOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Shumita Basu