World Trade Center beams to be on display in Ottawa

‘We the People’ interactive exhibit to arrive Monday

Illinois Valley Community College's Ottawa Center, 321 W. Main Street

The death, devastation and terror that spread throughout the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, and the lessons the nation learned from that day are things that those experiencing them – from however close or however far away – will or could never forget.

Those are things that those not old enough to remember will need to learn, and they will get the chance locally in just a few days.

From the rubble of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, two steel beams are making their way to Ottawa.

“We the People,” a traveling exhibit that features beams from that historic day, at 10 a.m. Monday will be escorted by the Illinois State Patriot Guard and local first responders into town along Route 6.

The exhibit encourages children to think and communicate about helping their communities through a Talk Back Star Station, which poses questions and encourages children to reflect on their ideas of unity, friendship, helping and patriotism.

By the end of next week, the interactive exhibit that tells and teaches observers about 9/11 will be on full display at the Illinois Valley Community College Ottawa campus, 321 W. Main St., starting a monthlong exhibition honoring the memory of the thousands of Americans who died in that terrorist attack.

“We’re very excited about this,” Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry Executive Director Jay McCracken said. “We want to make sure that we keep the memory of it alive so that kids will understand what it’s all about and to honor those fallen heroes from that day. It’s very interactive and very respectful of those who lost their lives and who served since that tragic day.”

The procession will begin Monday morning in Morris and pass through Seneca and Marseilles on its way to the Ottawa campus, with local responders joining near the city limits.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 6, there will be a grand opening ceremony for the public at the campus building. The ceremony will feature members of the Ottawa chamber, the posting of the colors, a ribbon-cutting and summer foods for those on hand. There also will be a children’s scavenger hunt through city businesses that will help them learn more about 9/11 along the way.

After that, the exhibit will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

“We’re very lucky to have this here in town,” McCracken said. “Donna Reynolds from the Ottawa Visitors Center first learned of it and started making arrangements, and we’ve all joined forces on the project. With the visitors center leading the charge, working together are IVCC and the chamber office, and Janette Phalen very generously said they’d be happy to keep it open and have security here. And, of course, the city of Ottawa has been very supportive as well.

“The town is ready. It looks great with all the flags out in the park. … It’s going to be a great opportunity for our families, especially so close to the Fourth of July.”

The traveling exhibit is made available to communities by the Children’s Museum of Oak Lawn, which created it after acquiring two beam pieces from a nearby city memorial project honoring first responders. For information about the exhibit, visit

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