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DECATUR — Construction is underway at the future site of the 9/11 Memorial at the Nelson Park lakefront. Organizers are aiming to dedicate the memorial on Sept. 11. 

DECATUR — With the exception of its black granite base, organizers said a majority of the nearly 30-foot 9/11 memorial on Nelson Park’s lakefront will be completed by Sept. 11.

Construction of the memorial began on Tuesday, as crews started building the foundation of its Beach House-adjacent future home. Within the next two weeks, concrete footings will be dug and filled around the site, according to construction coordinator Brett McClelland.

McClelland said installing the memorial’s stainless steel structures, including an I-beam that was salvaged from the World Trade Center, will be the top priority for all of the crews working on the project.

The base, which will be in the shape of the Pentagon, will have to wait until the granite becomes available, he said.

“It takes about two months to get the granite, because it comes overseas from China. That’s the hold up,” McClelland said. “Right now, let’s just build the cake and worry about the rest later.”

The plans to build a 9/11 memorial featuring the I-beam have been in discussion since 2015, after the George A. Mueller Beer Co. led a successful campaign to bring the beam to Decatur.

After the $70,000 needed to build the monument was raised through a variety of fundraisers, the Decatur Park District Board officially approved the lakefront construction site on July 5.

“This process was about as grassroots as you can get,” McClelland said. “This wasn’t made with a bunch of huge donations from big companies. This was made by the citizens of Central Illinois.”

Lauren Axe, liaison for the 9/11 memorial, said the high amount of support that the project has received in the past two years has been “awesome.”

She praised the efforts of all the people and organizations, like Iron Workers Union Local No. 46 and Midwest Materials, that have volunteered their time and efforts to help bring the idea of the memorial closer to reality.

“People are pretty excited about this,” Axe said. “A lot of people have been stepping up and helping, and that’s really humbling.”

While the public unveiling of the memorial is still weeks away, some local residents are already looking forward to seeing the structure in person. Pamela and Jim Tappendorf Jr. of Decatur said they both appreciate the thought behind the memorial, and respect what it will come to represent.

They’ve even donated money toward its construction through fundraisers hosted by the Cromwell Radio Group and Coziahr Harley-Davidson, as a part of its weekly Bike Night events.

“My belief is, if you don’t remember the past, you’re aimed to repeat the same mistakes,” Jim said. “We’ve got to remember that.”

Axe said organizers are still accepting donations to build park benches and engraved bricks to be installed around the site.

She believes that the public's support, in whatever capacity, is helping them create a tangible aid to ensure that no one ever forgets what happened on that day 16 years ago. 

"It's been an amazing journey so far," Axe said. 

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Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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