WAUSEON -- When Kevin Nelson started making sketches of a permanent Sept. 11 memorial to be built at the Fulton County Fairgrounds, he wanted it to tell the story that nearly every American alive that day knows only too well.
"This has to be an education tool for kids," said Mr. Nelson, a designer and firefighter for the Wauseon Fire Department, which secured a 12-foot steel beam salvaged from the World Trade Center.
Charlie Warthling of Norwalk agrees. Ten years already have passed since that fateful day when nearly 3,000 people were killed by terrorists in New York City, Washington, and Shanksville, Pa. "My own kids are 8 months and 3 years, and they don't have a clue about what happened that day," he said. "I'd like there to be a memorial where they can learn about it."
Mr. Warthling obtained a 28-foot steel beam from the wreckage that has been cut into sections for Sept. 11 memorials in Huron County, at the Fairfield Township Fire Department where he volunteers and at two schools where he has worked.
Across the country, 9/11 memorials are springing up -- many revolving around a tough steel reminder of the devastation wreaked that sunny day in 2001. After inviting communities to apply, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey made artifacts available for use in free, public, educational displays about Sept. 11.
In Fulton County, the 3,615-pound steel beam usually on display on a flat trailer at the Wauseon fire station will be permanently installed at the fairgrounds once area fire departments raise enough money to build it.
Mr. Nelson has spent months coming up with a design for the memorial, which will have four entrances and four granite stones that pay tribute to firefighters and emergency medical service, law enforcement, and military personnel.
Some 343 firefighters and paramedics and 60 police officers died responding to the twin towers after the jets struck them.
More than 6,000 U.S. servicemen and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the terror attacks.
Lined with 4-foot-high block walls, the Fulton County memorial also will have flags, planters, and benches. In the center, the steel beam from the World Trade Center will thrust into the air.
"The beam is obviously going to be the focal point of our memorial," Mr. Nelson explained. "I wanted to stand it vertical just as the building stood vertical and straight and true, just as we as Americans are standing proud and true after this happened. That was kind of my vision for it."
He said the design started as a circle and morphed into a square and then into an octagon. "I found out that octagon means eternity and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, how much better can it be?' I'm trying to put some meaning into it," Mr. Nelson said.
Assistant Fire Chief Rick Sluder, who wrote the letter to the port authority requesting the artifact, said the department took the steel beam to festivals and chicken barbecues in communities across Fulton County over the summer. Last week, it was at the Fulton County Fair, and today it is to be on display at Evergreen High School for a 9/11 service.
When the artifact is not at an event, passers-by from near and far routinely stop at the fire station on Clinton Street to see it.
"We get a lot of people stopping in that just read about it in the paper or saw it on the news," Chief Sluder said. "We've had people from as far as three hours away who came just to see it. A lot of people are interested."
The Tiffin Fire Division plans to display an 18-foot beam from the World Trade Center during a memorial service at 7 p.m. today at Columbian High School and at the Tiffin Seneca County Heritage Festival next weekend.
The city of Perrysburg, which sent two police officers to New York to help out after the Sept. 11 attacks, obtained a 3-foot, 15-pound piece of a door casing from the twin towers, which it has placed in an oak display case in its atrium between the police department and the municipal building.
Jon Eckel, the city's public service director, hopes the mangled, rusted piece of steel will give visitors pause as other such memorials do.
"I've seen some neat things communities are doing with these artifacts," he said.
Mr. Eckel said that during a recent drive through Urbana, Ohio, about an hour west of Columbus, he and his wife saw a steel beam from the World Trade Center that had been incorporated into a memorial in a park along U.S. 68.
Freedom Grove Memorial Park pays tribute to those who died in the attacks, including a United Airlines flight attendant from the area.
Although Perrysburg and Wauseon did not lose anyone in the attacks, their residents' lives, like those of all Americans', were changed that day.
"It's just an event that no matter if you're in the military, in fire service, or just a civilian, it's changed the way we do everything -- from sending our kids to school to just living life in general," Chief Sluder said.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6129.