OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The World Trade Center may have been more than 1,000 miles away from Kansas City when the towers collapsed after a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, but you can find pieces of the twin towers showing the strength of resilient America all across the Kansas City area.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed that fateful day including 343 firefighters. Students in the Public Safety Academy at Olathe West learned about the victims Thursday.
“Richard Kelly Jr was from ladder 11,” one student said holding up his picture.
“He was a firefighter for 18 months and he had a wife and two kids,” another student said detailing another firefighter.
The students ran 110 flights of stairs in honor of the firefighters who climbed the stairs at the World Trade Center trying to save lives. Though none of the students were born yet 20 years ago, the school has a stark reminder of the tragedy at the entrance to its library, a beam from one of the towers.
“Just the sheer force that must have happened that day is something I think about all the time when I walk by it. Just to see the fact that it was bent and all it’s been through and now that it’s here in the middle of Kansas is pretty awesome,” Principal Jay Novacek said.
Pieces of the tower can also be found in Overland Park outside the Overland Park Fire Administration and Fire Training Center.
“The artifact we have stands 14 feet tall. It weighs 2.5 tons,” firefighter Trevor Miller demonstrated.
A decade ago the fire department raised a million dollars in funds and donated labor to put together an educational memorial to the fallen.
“It’s very important to myself and the rest of the men and the women of the department that we continue to teach the events,” Miller said.
There are the nearly 3,000 victim’s names and four panels detailing each hijacked plane and what happened. The panels are strategically placed across from a hole in the twin tower beam.
“The sun will line up with the medallions at the time each of the flights crashed,” Miller said.
Designers of a memorial installed at Pleasant Valley’s new fire station last month also paid close attention to detail. Built on concrete in the shape of the Pentagon, a soothing water feature replicates the memorial at Ground Zero today.
“It also has the towers of what was. So when the sun goes through them you get the tower that shines down to the ground. Then there’s the mangled mess of the twisted metal of what happened that day,” volunteer firefighter Jennifer Gallagher explained.
The department applied for and received some of the final remaining steel remnants of the Twin Towers distributed 2,600 places in every state in the U.S. and many places around the world. Gallagher and a team of female welders then erected the memorial with help from area Boy Scouts.
Pleasant Valley plans an 11 a.m. ceremony Saturday, Sept. 11, to dedicate the new memorial. Overland Park will hold a ceremony from 7:30-9:30 a.m. the same morning, marking 20 years since the terrorist attack. The department will also be casting two blue lights representing the towers that fell throughout Friday and Saturday night.
Each area memorial is a chance for someone to learn, remember, or reflect.
“Just thinking that there were so many people that perished that day that they were in these stairwells not knowing what was going on and all of the sudden it collapsed,” Pleasant Valley interim Fire Chief Phil Hudson said.
Back in the stairways at Olathe West students have a new understanding of that sadness and sacrifice. The school’s honor guard solemnly protected that World Trade Center beam all day Friday during school.