Library shelves memorial to 9-11 victim

The memorial to a former Lawrence student who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was short-lived at the Lawrence Public Library.

Leslie Whittington, a former Centennial School student, died Sept. 11, 2001, when the plane she, her husband, and two children were in crashed into the Pentagon.

In April, a bookshelf loaded with 73 books was dedicated to Whittington at the Centennial School library. When Centennial was closed in May, the memorial bookshelf, pictures of Whittington and the books were donated to the Lawrence Public Library.

“We were happy that the school asked us to take the memorial,” said Bruce Flanders, library director.

Now nearly seven months after the dedication, though, the Whittington memorial shelf has all but disappeared.

Sitting against a brick wall in the library, the once-noticeable sign reading “Leslie’s Books” is no longer visible. Instead, there is the new sign: “Staff Favorites.”

Stacey Lamb, who designed and painted the original shelf, said she was aghast at the treatment by the library.

“Someone said to me not too long ago, ‘Have you seen where it is? It’s in the corner.’ And I thought, ‘Come on.'”

Of the shelf’s new placement, Lamb said, “That hurts. … That is so disrespectful to Leslie. If they are going to treat it that way, I say let’s take it to Cordley; maybe it should be a roaming memorial.”

Cordley fifth-grader Phebe Myers, who attended Centennial last year before it was closed in a district cost-cutting measure, has taken up the banner for proper display of the bookshelf, including writing a letter to the editor of the Journal-World.

“I went to the library last Monday (Dec. 29) and saw the bookshelf and was very upset,” Phebe said.

“At first when we were learning about Leslie, I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Phebe said. “But after the dedication, we all realized how special the memorial was.”

Flanders said the rearranged shelf was part the plan all along.

“We had an agreement with the school the shelf would stay as is for a few months, and in fact it did for six months before we made some changes,” Flanders said.

“We explained to the school that after that time was up we would put the books on the shelves for check out and put a name plate in the books in honor of Whittington.”

But Phebe said she couldn’t believe such an agreement would be made.

“The bookshelf should be put back the way it was,” she said. “It is very special and should not just be tucked away in the back like it is. When you walk into the children’s section, you can’t even find it. It should be somewhere everyone can see.”

Lamb shares the same passion for the shelf as Phebe.

“That shelf means a lot to me, too,” Lamb said. “I felt a real connection to her (Leslie). She loved her kids and she loved to read. Hearing what’s been done to the shelf doesn’t make me feel very good.”

Flanders said the library was planning to revive the memorial in the near future.

“We are hoping that in the next month or so we can find a more permanent spot for the memorial,” said Flanders. “When we find that spot, we will also put up the pictures of Leslie and a list of all the books that were donated as part of her memorial,” he said.

Gina Grigaitis, who was principal at Centennial at the time of its closing, could not be reached for comment.