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More questions about World Trade Center artifact slated for Lawrence; A&E's 'Shipping Wars' plans to be in Douglas County
A 10,000 pound piece of the fallen World Trade Center sure seems to have a lot of baggage with it.
If you remember, last month we reported on an effort by a Lawrence-based nonprofit to place the 9/11 artifact at the Lawrence Visitors Center. Well, I thought I would update you on the project because a controversy about the effort has been in the news again, this time in Topeka.
But first, an update on the Lawrence front. Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard confirmed to me recently that the city has notified the nonprofit group, the American Fallen Warrior Memorial Foundation, that the city doesn't have an appropriate city-owned location to display the artifact.
The group has filed an application with the city to place the polished hunk of concrete, which came from the Trade Center's foundation wall, outside the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence. That site also serves as the Lawrence Visitors Center.
But Stoddard said the city's Cultural Arts Commission met last month and balked at the idea.
"There was just a concern that there wasn't an adequate venue to appropriately display it," Stoddard said of the commission's reasoning.
The group has had some setbacks before. It has had on the drawing board for several years a plan to build a $30 million plus memorial in Kansas City for soldiers who have died since the Gulf War. But along the way, there has been a lawsuit with a Texas-based organization that has had a similar plan, and the Kansas City Star last year wrote a rather pointed article about the American Fallen Warrior Memorial organization and the information it dispenses.
It now appears that controversy has taken hold of the 10,000 pound World Trade Center artifact. Topeka television station WIBW reported over the weekend that a plan to place the artifact outside a Topeka fire station suddenly was canceled after the artist who retrieved and shaped the World Trade Center block has accused the American Fallen Warrior group of not paying her for her services.
An executive with the crane company that had been hired to move the piece told the television station that Tonya Evans, the CEO of the memorial foundation, and Sandra Priest, the artist of the piece, have been in a legal dispute over who owns the World Trade Center artifacts.
The WIBW piece reports the final resting place for the piece is still supposed to be in Lawrence. Perhaps the organization has found a private piece of property to host the piece, or perhaps the information is just outdated. I put a call into Evans to get more details about future plans but haven't heard back from her yet.
All the difficulties for the project are a shame. The idea behind the group, a national memorial to soldiers who have fought and died in recent conflicts related to the war on terror, is an appropriate one. And some of the designs the group has for the memorial are striking. But it sure seems like the project has a lot of drama associated with it.
Perhaps you like drama, in which case you may be a fan of reality television programs. If so, you may get a chance to see one up close and personal. Leaders with the Eudora United Methodist Church have announced that the A&E program "Shipping Wars" is slated to be in Douglas County later this month. The church, which is the one along Kansas Highway 10 just west of the Eudora interchange, is getting a new steeple. Evidently, the folks at "Shipping Wars" thought following the steeple's trip from North Carolina to Eudora would make good television.
Originally, the church thought the steeple and crews would be arriving Sept. 24, but church officials told me just recently that A&E had called and said the driver is sick with the flu and would be delayed a few days. The drama already begins. Whenever the event happens, church officials said they'll invite members of the public to come out and watch the unloading and, I suppose, have a chance to be on television — if you can create enough drama. I'll let you know when I hear a more definite date.
Personally, the drama part of this has me a little worried. Full disclosure: My wife and I are members of the church, and she is encouraging me to get on the roof with the steeple. If she sneaks up the ladder behind me, I'll be really worried about what type of drama she has in mind.