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USF students 9/11 monument design to become reality

With the help of two USF students, the city of Madeira Beach has commissioned a monument to honor those who died during the World Trade Center attacks Sept. 11, 2001.

The monument was designed by Greg Osburn and Eli Pano, graduate students studying architecture and community design, respectively. Osburn said the monument’s parti, or main concept, is to educate.

“The main concept for this monument (is) to take a child who was born after 9/11, or was so young that they don’t know what happened at 9/11, and you could walk around to the spaces and discover things about 9/11,” Osburn said. “It’s sort of a hands-on museum in a way.”

The monument will be built in Causeway Park, alongside the Gulf of Mexico.

“You’re pretty much confronted with this monument,” he said. “You’ll see it when you’re going over the (Tom Stuart Causeway) bridge.”

How did two graduate students get tabbed to design a public monument? The story begins with a beam.

Madeira Beach city commissioners were approached about a possible memorial centered on an 800-pound I-beam recovered from the World Trade Center towers wreckage. The commissioners liked the idea and formed a monument committee to explore the project, said Madeira Beach Fire Department Chief Bill Mallory.

“We probably had four or five different designs before we saw the one we actually ended up using, but when we saw the one, we didn’t look back after that,” he said of the pair’s plan.

The committee recommended the students’ design to the board of commissioners, which voted unanimously in its favor.

Formed of concrete block, stucco, glass and steel, the monument makes several references to 9/11. Its footprint will be in the shape of a pentagon. One of its walls, dubbed “The Wall of Life,” will feature 12 aluminum panels with 3,000 holes punched in it, each representing a life lost on Sept. 11. The wall will be backlit so light can stream through the holes and make the monument visible at night, Osburn said.

A planter, set off 9 feet, 11 inches from surrounding features, will serve as a tribute to the first responders.

“The reason we wanted to incorporate a planter was that we’re using steel, concrete and glass, all these cold materials,” he said. “We wanted to bring in some sort of life or ‘life-ness’ to it. In the planter, we’re going to get red, white and blue flowers.”

A bar graph will also be within the planter, with each inch of graph representing a lost life. The bar honoring fallen EMTs will be 15 inches long in honor of those who died, while the bar honoring the New York Police Department will be 23 inches and one honoring the port authority will be 37 inches. A bar honoring firefighters will be 343 inches long.

“It just shows the appreciation for the great loss of life that happened,” Osburn said.

Other features of the monument include the “10-year bench,” a seating area to commemorate the time since the twin towers were struck, and the monument’s ceiling, which shares the same length and width as a U.S. Garrison flag.

Osburn and Pano even developed a way to give visitors an idea of the buildings’ scale through the placement of three replica I-beams. The white I-beam at the site of the monument will be 209 feet from a blue beam set away from the monument, representing the buildings’ width, and more than 1,300 feet from a red beam, representing the buildings’ height, Pano said.

Osburn said it’s an honor to design this public monument as younger generations will feel 9/11’s effects for the rest of their lives.

“A lot of architect (students), when they graduate from school, they’re going to design tollbooths or room additions, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we’re so fortunate to be involved with something that, right now, is the dream job.” Pano said costs for the project can’t be determined until their blueprints are drawn.

“Everything for the memorial is being donated. All of the labor and all the materials will be donated, it won’t affect the taxpayers,” he said. “We’re not asking money from them, we’re just going around to outside sources, and people are just willing to donate their time and help us,” he said.

The committee held its first fundraiser Monday, which Pano said drew a few hundred people and raised about $3,000. Three more fundraisers are planned, including a Church by the Sea pancake breakfast July 16, a first responders’ chili cook-off Aug. 13 and a “Bands on the Sand” show Aug. 27, said Ken Markgraf, a retired New York City Fire Department battalion chief and member of the committee.

Markgraf, who retired from active duty in 1989, said his son worked as a Verizon technician on the ninth floor of one of the towers, but was in class the day the buildings were attacked.

Osburn and Pano said the committee plans to have the monument completed before Sept. 11, so it will be ready on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.