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Sept. 11 Debris Creates a Hush

Parade: Thousands turn out in Rancho Cucamonga to greet shipment of wreckage from the attack on New York's twin towers.

July 05, 2002|BOB POOL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

RANCHO CUCAMONGA -- There has never been an Independence Day parade here like the one that drew an estimated 15,000 onlookers Thursday.

There were no marching bands, no flag-twirling drill teams or service club floats festooned with red, white and blue streamers.

Instead, two flatbed trailer trucks carrying wreckage from the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York's World Trade Center traveled slowly past the somber crowd lining two streets in this sleepy foothill community 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

One trailer held the remains of a New York City fire truck that officials said had been battered to destruction by the collapse of the twin towers. The other carried 16 tons of twisted steel beams pulled from the ruins.

The steel will be used to make a pair of identical memorial sculptures commemorating the heroism of firefighters and police officers who were killed as they attempted to rescue people from the twin towers.

San Bernardino County residents and officials accompanied the wreckage on an 11-day trek across the country. Now they hope to raise $12 million to pay for the 37-foot-tall memorials.

The planned design will resemble a huge sundial whose shadow will touch 8:45 a.m. each Sept. 11. The bottom of the sundial will depict a stairwell filled with rescuers and victims; the top will portray flames--including one that a firefighter is disappearing into.

Those planning the "Freedom's Flame" memorial plan to place one sculpture in the Rancho Cucamonga area. They hope to find a spot in New York City for the other.

The memorial was conceived by San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Dennis Stout.

But Stout concedes that it may take years to raise the money required to pay for the work and to win permission of New York officials to erect part of it there.

"When the French first proposed giving the Statue of Liberty to New York, there was little interest," Stout said Thursday as hundreds crowded around the truckload of twisted beams at Chaffey College to sign their names on the rusting ironwork.

If a memorial created in remote Rancho Cucamonga seems audacious to New Yorkers, Stout is emboldened by a previous public sculpture effort. It was a statue called "Officer Down," depicting a police officer coming to the aid of a mortally wounded colleague.

The names of San Bernardino police officers killed in the line of duty are listed on that statue, three copies of which are displayed in public buildings around the county. Stout organized a private foundation that raised $350,000 to pay for the artwork.

Stout hopes a similar foundation will fund "Freedom's Flame." The sale of such things as posters, T-shirts and commemorative coins has raised $50,000 so far, he said.

Sculptor Lawrence Noble, a Crestline artist who worked with Stout on the memorial to slain police officers, said the proposed sculpture would allow visitors to touch the depictions of rescuers and victims and experience some of the horror of Sept. 11 themselves.

Those watching Thursday's procession said they had been touched by the sight of the World Trade Center wreckage.

"Seeing this makes it all seem so much more real," said a Fontana resident, Angela Pipkin, as her 8-year-old daughter, Amber, climbed onto the trailer to inscribe one beam with the words: "God Bless America from the Pipkin and Dotson families."

Maryann Rivas of Riverside sobbed as she placed a homemade red, white and blue wreath on a twisted section of iron.

"I still feel the loss from that day," she said.

Spectators were in a jubilant mood until the flatbed trucks slowly drew into view.

Danielle Wells, 10, of Rancho Cucamonga, had waved a flag and shouted "Happy Fourth of July" to passing cars. But she fell silent when the battered New York City fire truck and the tower wreckage appeared.

A few steps away, Bob Olari, a Rancho Cucamonga loan officer, pulled off his cowboy hat and held it over his heart as the two trucks passed by.

"What happened back there happened to all of us," Olari said.

Eric Buege, a Los Angeles County firefighter who spent a week last fall in New York working at the twin towers site, stood reverently next to his wife and parents as he watched the wreckage pass slowly in front of him.

"I wanted them to experience a little of what I did back there,'' he said sadly.

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