The crashing plane, the inferno, the collapse.
It’s all written in twists, tears and burns on the two rusty beams lying in an industrial yard on Tacoma’s Tideflats.
“Everything is stressed from one end to the other,” Jim Haworth said as he looked them over Thursday. “It’s traumatized.”
Haworth is a foreman at Jesse Engineering. He knows steel.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, it was a traumatized nation that tried to make sense of a terrorist attack that killed 2,977 people in New York City, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and in a meadow in Shanksville, Penn.
Jack Chandler was one of them. The retired Army and Air Force veteran remembers watching the TV, seeing the plane hit the second tower in real time that morning.
“I thought to myself, we’re in big trouble,” he recalled on Thursday.
Wednesday marks the 18th anniversary of the day that changed the United States in ways large and small. It’s also the day that Chandler finally realizes his goal of creating a memorial in the town of Milton.
That’s when the 35-foot-tall beams will be installed, upright, at the memorial in Milton Community Park near a veteran’s memorial.
“This says to the world, we are a little bent and we’re a little dirty but we’re still standing strong,” Chandler said.
Born of tragedy
“I couldn’t speak the first time I saw it,” Chandler said of that day in 2015. “The emotion … it gets to me now, talking about it.”
The boxed beams are ungainly folded together. Some rivets are still in place. Others are gone, torn from their holes. Metal flanges, over an inch thick, are ripped as if made of paper.
The beams had once been parallel, part of the window frame of World Trade Center 2, somewhere between the 91st and 94th floors. It was the second tower hit but the first to go down.
Most of the steel from the Twin Towers was sold as scrap. But the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey kept some for this exact purpose: to create memorials in all 50 states and several countries.
The Milton memorial has been a seven-year quest for Chandler.
First, there was the process of applying for and getting an artifact from the Port Authority. Rules and qualifications must be met.
“We asked for a piece 16 feet long,” Chandler said, but didn’t say no to the 35-foot section they were offered instead.
Then, some of the neighbors of what’s known locally as Triangle Park said they didn’t want the memorial.
Too tall, they said. Too sad.
“They wanted it more centrally located at a fire station,” Chandler said.
The steel arrived from New York in 2015 — a trucker volunteered to drive it. But the opposition and changing city administrations delayed the project.
There’s also the money. The project needed $150,000 in cash or donations. So far, Chandler has raised $60,000.
About 60 percent of the project’s funding comes from private donations. Milton, Edgewood and Fife contributed the rest.
Eventually, the permits came, and the critics were won over. Or gave up.
Police and fire department employees and Veterans of Foreign Wars members have donated personal funds and time, Chandler said. Sept. 11 victims included 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and 55 military personnel.
The memorial will be educational, Chandler said. A black granite panel will tell the story of Sept. 11.
“We want people to remember the lives lost,” Chandler said. “I want my kids, my grandkids and my great-grandkids to know what happened.”
On Wednesday at 1 p.m., a crane will lower the 4,800-pound artifact into place at the memorial at Milton Community Park, Milton Way and 15th Avenue.
The public is welcome although the official dedication will occur in 2020, Chandler said.
What will be seen are the two beams standing as straight as twisted metal can.
Eventually, the beams will be surrounded by a pentagon shape inside a gold star and circled by plantings. Nearby, will stand the granite plaque.
The design was created by students at Fife High School. They wanted all aspects of that day — New York, the Pentagon, Flight 93 — incorporated into the memorial.
The beams were just above the impact zone of Flight 175. They were weakened by the jet fuel-fed fire. Jesse Engineering strengthened them with a pipe that runs nearly the length of the artifact.
Items found inside the beams were removed and buried in concrete at the monument’s base.
There will be no railings or fence around the beams when the memorial is finished. Chandler and his fellow volunteers want the public to touch it.
The artifact will be lit all night long.
Sept. 11 marks the first day that people born after that date in 2001 will become adults.
“I was only 12 days old when Pearl Harbor happened,” Chandler said. “But, I learned about Pearl Harbor. To remember these tragic events gives us purpose to be able to understand why we have the freedoms we have.”
Remembrances and memorials
Lakewood and University Place
West Pierce Fire & Rescue will hold two public ceremonies. An 11:45 a.m. ceremony will be held in conjunction with the City of Lakewood at Lakewood City Hall, 6000 Main St. A 5:30 p.m. ceremony will be held at West Pierce Station 31, 3631 Drexler Dr. W. in University Place. The evening ceremony will take place in the 9/11 Reflection Park where a 500-pound steel beam from the Twin Towers is on display.
Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One has a 5-foot-long, 986-pound beam on display in the 9/11 Memorial Project. It came from the upper floors of one of the Twin Towers. It is on display at the fire station on Bujacich Road Northwest.
The Tacoma Fire Memorial along Ruston Way has a 1-foot-square piece from a World Trade Center beam. The addition was dedicated in 2014.
South King Fire & Rescue has a 10-foot-long piece of steel from the World Trade Center, a stone from the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, site of Flight 93’s crash and a block of limestone from the Pentagon at the South King Fire 9/11 Memorial.