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Handling of World Trade Center beams irks some in Oak Lawn

Two beams from World Trade Center sit an open warehouse thused be part Beatty Lumber Oak Lawn.  |

Two beams from the World Trade Center sit in an open warehouse that used to be part of Beatty Lumber in Oak Lawn. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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They are two steel beams lying beneath a hooded storage area in an abandoned Oak Lawn lumberyard.

But to many people they symbolize the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, where 341 New York City firefighters also perished.

“I pass by the site (of the lumberyard) every day, and it is very upsetting,” said Oak Lawn Fire Lt. James McGeever, who escorted four girders from the Twin Towers from New York to Oak Lawn in December. “They’re not covered up. They’re exposed to the elements. They’re not treated with dignity.

“And as someone who has spent 27 years in the fire service, as someone who arrived in New York in October 2001 because that city no longer had enough firefighters to attend the funeral services of their fallen comrades, I just shake my head, and it makes me sick to my stomach.”

In December, a flatbed truck carrying 30,000 pounds of steel beams from the Twin Towers was escorted into Oak Lawn with great fanfare by the Illinois Patriot Guard and a convoy of police, fire and public works vehicles.

There were four beams, and they were to be used in a first responders memorial near the Oak Lawn Metra station.

The Oak Lawn Rotary Club has raised nearly $100,000 for the project. Sculptor Erik Blome was commissioned to design the memorial. The village recruited volunteer donations for other parts of the project.

And the hope was that it would be completed on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. But only one sculpture, a twisted beam with artistic elements, was completed in time. Another similar, “tormented” piece of steel, a second spire, is still being worked on.

“The other two beams were to be used in their natural state as part of the memorial,” village manager Larry Deetjen said. “Attached to the beams are parts of the concrete from the floors to which they were attached. They are in their natural state and will remain that way.

“They needed footings, which were welded on by volunteers, but we had nowhere to store them. Our public works yard is very small. In the winter, we store piles of salt there, and there are trucks going in and out all of the time.

“The old Beatty Lumber yard was available and offered to us, and since it was in close proximity to the memorial site (about a block away) and secure we thought it would be a very good spot to store them.”

Deetjen said a tarp covered the beams during the winter but has since been removed.

“From my perspective, God’s rain and the elements attacking them is not disrespectful,” Deetjen said. “When they’re planted in concrete as part of the memorial, they will be exposed to the elements. They won’t be covered up.”

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