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Maryland 9/11 Memorial on track for 10th anniversary

Article - Monday, May 2, 2011

Julie Bykowicz
The Baltimore Sun 

For organizers of the 9/11 Memorial of Maryland, the unexpected announcement Sunday that U.S. forces had killed al-Qaida leaderOsama bin Laden came as a moving coincidence.

Memorial committee members had planned to release renderings of the Inner Harbor site this month. The memorial, which will incorporate wreckage from the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is to open in time for the 10th anniversary of the attacks in September.

The news of bin Laden's death "tremendously raises the poignancy" of the coming memorial, said Theresa Colvin, executive director of the Maryland State Arts Council.

"It brings the attacks to the top of mind for everyone," she said.

The state acquired a 22-foot-long, rust-colored section of mangled beams — two tons of steel that was twisted and fused when the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. The artifact is to become the centerpiece of the privately funded memorial planned for the plaza due north of Baltimore's World Trade Center.

Renderings of the site are to be made public two weeks from now, organizers said. On Monday — prompted by news of bin Laden's death — the memorial committee publicized a recently launched website, maryland911memorial.org, that describes the project.

The beams are to rest horizontally on a 17-foot-by-35-foot bed of marble bearing the names and birthdates of 63 victims who considered Maryland home. The youngest victim was 3, the oldest 71. They were college students, entire families, government employees, soldiers. They lived in 10 counties and Baltimore City.

Local architecture firm Ziger/Snead is designing the site, which will function as a sundial: As the morning sun crosses the sky, the shadow cast by the trade center building will cover the marble in time with when planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, and when the skyscrapers toppled.

By 10:28 a.m., when the North Tower fell, all but a corner of the memorial will be darkened.

"It's as if a curtain has been drawn," said Ziger/Snead associate Douglas Bothner, the project architect. "But that sliver of light left is to show that even in such terrible times, there is a glimmer of hope."

Ziger/Snead was chosen in January from among 44 firms that sought to lead the project, committee members said. The design was approved at the end of March.

Randall "Rand" Griffin, chairman of the Maryland 9/11 Memorial Committee, said the killing of bin Laden "provides an element of justice" for victims' families, while the memorial is "another necessary element for them."

Griffin, the chief executive officer of Corporate Office Properties Trust, said construction and initial upkeep of the memorial is expected to cost close to $2 million. He declined to say how much money had been raised but said he was confident the committee would reach its target.

The memorial is very much a work in progress.

The beams are being housed for now at a private facility at Fort Meade; Griffin said work on the installation is to begin in July.

The committee learned recently that it will soon take possession of chunks of limestone from the Pentagon, which Bothner said will form the base of a plaque about the memorial. Members are working to get a remembrance from Shanksville, Pa., the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93.

In addition to the ground-level memorial, a tribute is planned for the trade center's observation deck on the 27th floor.

Each attack site has or is planning a memorial, and many local areas, including Montgomery County and University Park, pay tribute to residents who were victims. But survivors said they are touched that the state also plans to honor their loved ones.

Devora Wolk Pontell has places to visit to remember her newlywed husband. Darin Pontell, a 26-year-old Navy lieutenant who died at the Pentagon. She can visit his gravesite, the Pentagon or a memorial she helped plan across from the Montgomery County Courthouse in Rockville.

But she said the Maryland memorial "shows that people are not forgetting. That is very important to me."

Pontell, a Howard County prosecutor, said she and other victims' families offered suggestions to the architects and committee members.

"I was very pleased to hear about it and to be involved," she said.

Kathryn "Kitty" McNeal already has plans to take her grandchildren to the Maryland memorial. The children, ages 4, 6 and 8, hadn't been born when Daniel McNeal, her son and their uncle, died in the Twin Towers.

The 29-year-old Loyola Blakefield High School graduate worked as a financial analyst in New York. But Maryland, Kitty McNeal said, "was his hometown."

"It's significant for his hometown to honor him," she said. "It's a wonderful idea." Click here to read the full story.

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