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Planned 9/11 memorial in Milton too tall for some observers

Jack Chandler touches the 36-foot piece of the World Trade Center that was part of the 90th or 91st floor before it came crashing down on 9/11. His dream is to create a memorial in Milton by standing the piece on its end in a community park. While awaiting a decision by the city of Milton, the piece is resting on a flatbed truck in a Fife storage yard.
Jack Chandler touches the 36-foot piece of the World Trade Center that was part of the 90th or 91st floor before it came crashing down on 9/11. His dream is to create a memorial in Milton by standing the piece on its end in a community park. While awaiting a decision by the city of Milton, the piece is resting on a flatbed truck in a Fife storage yard. The Seattle Times

There is no disagreement that it is emotional to touch this large, rusty piece of structural steel.

Parts are twisted, and large bolt holes are ripped apart from the unleashed forces that struck it on 9/11.

It is a long window section that stretched from floors 91 to 94 of the World Trade Center south building of the twin towers, and those floors were very close to the hijacked airliner’s impact zone. It currently sits atop a flatbed in a storage yard, awaiting its final resting place.

In this city of 7,000 just east of Tacoma, there is a small but vocal disagreement about what has been proposed for Artifact No. N-153.

A large “COMING SOON. World Trade Center Memorial” sign has been erected at a prominent location in Milton Community Park, known locally as Triangle Park.

The objection boils down to this: Its size.

The steel column is 36 feet tall and weighs 17,119 pounds.

It’s got so much character.

Jack Chandler, memorial organizer

The height of the monument would be about the equivalent of stacking six Bobby Wagners from the Seahawks on top of each other.

Big, big, big.

Cathy Popp lives right across the street from where the memorial is proposed.

“I walk out the front door, I’m going to see it. I look out the window, I’m going to see it,” she says.

Her daughter, Heather Popp, who also lives there, says, “I don’t want to walk out the front door and see a reminder of people jumping to their deaths. It’s important to remember their lives, but there are other ways to do it. They could have a garden.”

For the past four years, the memorial has been the passion of Jack Chandler, 74, of Milton. He served in the Army in Korea in the early 1960s, went on to the Air Force Reserve and retired as a University of Washington maintenance supervisor.

He is at the yard where the giant steel column is stored. His eyes well up as Chandler talks about the orangish mammoth.

A volunteer trucked the column from New York to Milton. The nearby city of Fife is storing it for free at its public-works yard.

“The first time I saw it, it was so emotional that I was speechless,” he says. “This is a historic piece of material from an event that changed the world. If I lived across the street from it, I’d be proud to look at it. It’s a symbol of honor. We know we’re not going to let it happen again.”

At first, it might have appeared that the location of the monument was a done deal, with local officials voicing support for the memorial.

It’s huge, it’s gargantuan, it’s not aesthetically pleasing.

Noah Bershatsky, memorial critic

An artist’s rendering was done, showing the steel column upright. It would sit near a veterans memorial already at the park. As tall as that memorial gets is a flagpole.

Chandler says that nearly $40,000 of a $100,000 fundraising goal for the 9/11 monument has been raised.

In 2013, the city’s Park Board and then the City Council voted to support the project.

But hold on now, says Milton Mayor Debra Perry.

“That was before we knew it was 36 feet tall, and before we knew that there were citizens who didn’t like it. It’s the city that will have to maintain it for the next 50 years.” she says.

Perry says that when she’s about town, she’s had locals tell her they’re not enthused about the memorial. But they voice their concerns about its size in private, she says.

“Nobody wants to come forward and say they don’t like a Sept. 11 memorial, don’t like apple pie, don’t like baseball,” says Perry.

At the Sept. 8 City Council meeting, four letters in opposition were presented, and one of the residents who spoke was listed as Noah Bershatsky.

He asked if the 36-foot column could be “altered or adjusted in any way.”

21Number of Washington cities that have memorials featuring pieces of the Twin Towers

One obvious way to do that is cut the column, maybe into a couple of pieces.

No, Chandler says: “It would take away from its integrity.”

At the council meeting, Bershatsky said, “That being the case, it’s gotta go back. It’s huge, it’s gargantuan, it’s not aesthetically pleasing.”

The mayor has suggested that a different location in the nine-acre park might work, but the location wouldn’t have the visibility.

Chandler says that would mean having to put in costly sidewalks and other features to make it comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Perry says the city will take a good long time in making a decision.

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