Eye On Illinois: State rich with poignant, detailed memorials to 9/11 attacks

It’s unlikely you need a reminder of the significance of today’s date. But if your Saturday plans don’t include reflection on the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, many places in Illinois are designed for that purpose year-round.

Many such sites have actual Ground Zero artifacts, which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey made available to communities nationwide.

Belleville has a memorial walkway of 350 feet with 10 plaques chronicling the events of the day and a steel column exceeding 32 feet and 7,100 pounds, supported by concrete columns symbolizing the two World Trade Center towers. There also is a Survivor Tree Seedling – a plant traced to a Callery pear tree found during recovery efforts that was revived and installed at the 9/11 Memorial in New York.

Wauconda’s, made from a 91st floor north tower beam, has landscaping with soil from the Flight 93 crash site. A tribute wall names all 2,977 victims.

Quincy’s memorial is a chunk of a World Trade Center Tower One communications tower including a foot-long, five-pound piece of a television broadcasting antenna designed and manufactured at the city’s Harris Corporation plant. The entire piece stands 15 feet tall and weighs 7,000 pounds.

Perhaps the newest Illinois memorial is the one Cherry Valley dedicated at Baumann Park in 2020, which features a permanent installation of a steel beam recovered from New York.

By contrast, Naperville claims its memorial, installed in 2003, is one of the first. The inspiration is native son Dan Shanower, a U.S. Navy commander who died at the Pentagon. Built on the Naperville Riverwalk, the design includes 140 faces, which local students created, molded onto a 48-foot retaining wall that contains an eternal flame. The wall serves as a backdrop to the sculpture, which incorporates 100 pounds of Pentagon rubble, a Ground Zero steel bead and granite from the part of Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed.

Dixon dedicated its memorial in 2006 at Veterans Park, incorporating two pieces of WTC steel. An Aledo memorial pays tribute to the 343 firefighters and EMTs, 60 police officers and eight paramedics who died in New York as well as seven Mercer County residents who died while serving in the military after 9/11. Similar in intent but different visually is a five-sided monument at the entrance of Community Park in Shiloh.

Even more niche is a memorial headstone in Chicago’s Livingston Field Park. The Near West Little League dedicated the tribute to seven former coaches and sponsors who died in the north tower.

For more information on these and others – including parks and fire departments in Morris, Elmhurst, Joliet and Coal City – the National 9/11 Memorial keeps a list of official sites at registries.911memorial.org.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.