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Delatte_Mike 8.14.17

Airport maintenance supervisor Mike Delatte helps prepare the display of a section of the I-Beam from the World Trade Center for a ceremony at E.L. Pruitt Co. Mechanical Contractors Monday afternoon. The beam was transported from the Decatur Airport to E.L. Pruitt Co. Mechanical Contractors in preparation for incorporating the piece into a local 9/11 memorial at Nelson Park. Online gallery at herald-review.com/gallery

DECATUR — After traveling thousands of miles from New York City to Decatur, a steel I-beam from the World Trade Center has made another stop in the journey to its future home at the Nelson Park 9/11 memorial.

On Monday, a police-led motorcade transported the 13-foot-long, 1,500 pound beam from the Decatur Airport to the E.L. Pruitt Company workshop, 121 S. Webster Street. Specializing in mechanical contracting and metal work, the company was asked by the committee behind the memorial to assist in bringing its vision to life.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Brett Cummins, project manager for E.L. Pruitt. “I’m very proud that we were asked to be involved. I mean, you look at (the beam) and you almost get a lump in your throat. It touches you.”

The George A. Mueller Beer Co. worked to bring the beam from New York to Decatur in 2015, when it was also accompanied on its first journey through the city by a large motorcade of motorcyclists and firefighters and police officers from multiple departments.

Construction began Aug. 1 at the site near the Beach House restaurant, where the memorial will overlook Lake Decatur. Organizers have said they plan to have the memorial ready by Sept. 11, the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. 

Among the people who watched as the motorcade left the airport parking lot was 14-year-old Kane Bobbitt. He first learned about the memorial by watching the news, and asked his grandmother if she would take him to see the beam in person. 

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Kindermann_Daniel 8.14.17

Daniel Kindermann plays with his granddaughter Murphy Boliard,1, after attending a ceremony at E.L. Pruitt Co. Mechanical Contractors commemorating the upcoming incorporation of a piece of the World Trade Center I-Beam into a local 9/11 memorial. Online gallery at herald-review.com/gallery

"I think it's real cool," he said. 

Cummins said the E.L. Pruitt team will cut and weld the beam to the memorial’s black granite base, allowing it to stand upright. They are also constructing two stylized Twin Towers out of stainless steel that will stand alongside the beam.

“This is a very special thing for the city of Decatur, and it’s going to be here forever,” he said.

Lauren Axe, liaison for the 9/11 memorial, said it was “wonderful” that the beam safely made it to its temporary home at E.L. Pruitt, despite a slight hiccup on the route to the workshop.

The motorcade was supposed to turn onto South Martin Luther King Jr. Drive after making its way down U.S. Route 36. Instead, it turned onto East Wood Street, which confused some people who were waiting to see it on the original course. 

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World Trade Center I Beam 8.14.17

A piece of the World Trade Center I-Beam is transported from the Decatur Airport to E.L. Pruitt Co. Mechanical Contractors in preparation for incorporating it into a local 9/11 memorial. Online gallery at herald-review.com/gallery

“I'm not sure why that happened," Axe said. "But I've gotten a couple of calls about it. I apologize for any inconvenience it caused."

Despite the sudden change of plans, a number of people still watched intently and reverently as the beam was left in the hands of the E.L. Pruitt employees.

Axe addressed the crowd standing in the workshop's parking lot and acknowledged them for funding and supporting the project. 

"My humble thanks to everyone here who has helped us get to this point," she said. "This I-beam is on its next journey to become our Decatur 9/11 memorial."

The Decatur Park District Board approved the lakefront construction site on July 5 after the committee had raised the $70,000 needed to build the memorial. Fundraising efforts have ranged from patriotic tattoos, with proceeds donated by Oakwood Tattoo, to a contest for best shoebox Mardi Gras parade float at St. Patrick School, with students voting by putting money in an envelope for the cause. 

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

As E.L. Pruitt's lead foreman for the project, Tim Lahniers, 60, said he felt excited and proud about his part in building the memorial — especially as someone who vividly remembers what it felt like to hear the news of what happened on Sept. 11. 

"I can drive back (to the memorial) in two years, or ten years down the road and go 'Look at that, I built that,'" he said with a smile. "It's still looking good."

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jcook@herald-review.com | (217) 421-7980

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Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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