EMU planning 9/11 memorial after receiving steel column from World Trade Center
Eastern Michigan University is planning to establish a 9/11 memorial after receiving a 14-foot, 6,800-pound steel column that was part of the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks.
EMU President Susan Martin requested an artifact from the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey at some point several months ago and recently found out that the request was granted.
EMU's acquisition of the artifact — first reported Friday by the Eastern Echo, EMU's student newspaper — comes about five weeks before the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
EMU Physical Plant Chief of Operations John Donegan told AnnArbor.com today that the artifact, an H-column steel beam, is believed to have come from the 74th floor of the World Trade Center's south tower.
"It's a huge column," Donegan said. "The one end of it has been completely ripped apart, and the other end of it was cut with a torch when they were cleaning things up over there."
The remnants of 9/11 are still visible on the column, he said.
"You can see where the metal was so hot that it started to melt parts of the beam," he said.
EMU retrieved the beam earlier this week from a hangar at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, where it was being housed with other remnants of the World Trade Center. Donegan said the beam was transported on a truck to Michigan.
The beam was immediately loaned to a group that's showing it to firefighters in Lansing today, but it's expected to be returned to Ypsilanti on Monday.
Donegan said the process of acquiring the column has been underway for months. He said the university plans to install the column as part of a 9/11 memorial that is already 85 percent planned. He wants the memorial to be built outside the northeast corner of EMU's Halle Library.
University officials said that plan is not official, but Donegan said he wants to move quickly to get the column erected by Sept. 11.
"It will be very visible and we're going to do it very tastefully," he said. "We're still in the design phase, but our initial concept right now that everybody seemed to like is sitting it on two concrete columns to emulate the two towers."
Early visitors to the steel column, which was temporarily sitting outside EMU's Physical Plant when it arrived on campus, have had varying reactions to seeing the artifact.
"Everybody's very emotional when they see it," Donegan said. "We've have people cry over it, we've had people pray over it, we've had people get mad when they see it."
One man who saw the column was working in the World Trade Center's south tower on the day it collapsed.
"He got very, very emotional," Donegan said. "He told us he went to 48 funerals in 30 days."
Donegan said the column was a "wonderful gift to the university" and that donors are already expressing interest in contributing to the creation of the permanent memorial.