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Beams from World Trade Center find permanent home in Kennewick

Three twisted, scarred and battered steel beams from one of New York City's twin towers will come to rest Sunday in Kennewick's Southridge complex.

The piece of ground zero will serve as the Tri-Cities' memorial to the 9/11 attacks.

"This is sacred," Kennewick Fire Marshal Mark Yaden said, talking about the emotional connection he and others in public safety have in remembering the 2,977 lives lost in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The 35-foot-long artifact, believed to have come from an upper level of one of the twin towers, will be displayed to show its condition after falling more than 1,000 feet into what came to be called ground zero in New York City.

Yaden said Kennewick is fortunate to have a piece of important U.S. history, but it wouldn't have come here without the help of Bill Lampson's family and their connection to the iron industry.

Lampson International is renown for building large cranes designed for special construction jobs worldwide.

Yaden said Lampson contacted Kennewick city officials after learning that some of the pieces from the twin towers would be available for use as memorials.

Lampson's sister, Sally Kanehe in Hawaii, had passed along the tip, Yaden said.

Civic leaders act quickly

The idea sounded good to Bob Hammond, then city manager, and it was agreed that Kennewick would accept responsibility for the artifact, even though it hadn't been decided what it would be, Yaden said.

"We spent a year waiting. Then in May we were notified we'd receive a piece of steel," Yaden said.

Councilman Paul Parish assembled a committee to coordinate the project. Fire Chief Neil Hines, Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, Yaden and others quickly included a group of businesses owners and volunteers to see if the monument could be in place by the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

"It's been incredible to watch the business community and trade groups come together to landscape, excavate and pour concrete. The site is at Southridge, so it would be in a very visible place," Yaden said.

The artifact is part of the exterior columns for one of the towers, providing support for three floors on a structure more than 1,300 feet tall.

Lampson arranged and paid to move the artifact from Manhattan to Kennewick. A truck driver from Montana delivered the columns to Lampson on June 25.

Lampson workers cleaned and prepared the heavy columns for mounting on a steel baseplate. They also did some welding to prevent damage by water and birds.

Yaden said the monument will be left to appear in its natural condition, but it will have a clear preservative treatment to prevent further degradation.

Debris and bits of metal knocked loose from the steel were not discarded during the prep work, but added to the concrete mix poured into the foundation for the memorial, Yaden said.

Mark Sanders and his ironworkers at Lampson have been the closest to the artifact, making it ready for a permanent display.

Sanders said he knew a big piece of steel from the twin towers was coming to the Lampson shop at the end of Columbia Drive and Gum Street in Kennewick.

But the magnitude of those twisted beams didn't impress him until the truck arrived with its cargo.

"When I first saw it, it kinda hit home," he said.

Being an ironworker who has spent his career building massive cranes, Sanders has seen plenty of heavy metal and long beams. But this was emblematic of one of the darkest days in the nation's history.

Steel beams include numbers

A string of numbers stamped on the steel beams that are Kennewick's 9-11-01 Memorial Monument could provide a clue as to which tower and what floor they were part of when the twin towers fell 10 years ago this weekend.

The numbers are a series that repeats 88 and 85.

Sanders isn't sure, but he said he believes the numbers could indicate that is where the 35-foot-long beams were placed on the tower's superstructure.

If so, then Kennewick's artifact would have been close to where the hijackers' airplanes slammed into the structures.

Parish said the beams were from upper levels because they are made of lighter gauge steel, commonly used higher in buildings. Thicker steel is used closer to the ground to carry more weight.

The hijacked airplane that targeted the north tower struck between the 93rd and 99th floors.

The south tower was hit about 20 minutes later, damaging floors 75 through 85.

Sanders said they found the numbers while working on the artifact, which required an 8-inch pipe to be installed as a stabilizing backbone and provide a way to attach the flagpole.

"I've got a lot of veterans (working here), and they all wanted to work on it," Sanders said. "It was an honor for most guys."

So many hands were eager to help that Sanders had to schedule times, just to make sure everyone got a chance to be a part of the project.

"It is great the city got this," he said.

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