Three giant steel beams twisted and fused together during the collapse of the North Tower of New York's World Trade Center in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The rubble, which arrived Tuesday, will be reborn as Maryland's 9/11 memorial, to be erected at Baltimore's World Trade Center in time for the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
Gov. Martin O'Malley called it "a sacred and holy relic," and his voice faltered as he said he would do his part to ensure that the state never forgets the 43 Marylanders who died when airplanes smashed into the towers and the Pentagon in Virginia.
O'Malley, a Democrat who was mayor of Baltimore in 2001, and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake were among those present for an arrival ceremony on a parking lot near the Dundalk Marine Terminal, where the beams will be stored until the memorial is installed.
The project is privately funded and overseen by an advisory committee that includes members of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, the Maryland Commission on Public Art, the Port Administration and the State Arts Council.
Some 40 artists asked to work on the project, and the committee will select about five finalists and interview them next month. The public can weigh in at meetings early next year. Randall Griffin, chairman of the committee, said its members are seeking to raise at least $1 million for the project.
The rust-colored metal is 22 feet long and weighs about 4,000 pounds. It will be installed at the base of the World Trade Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. A smaller beam remnant will be displayed at the observation level of the building.
"The focus of the memorial will be on the artifact itself," said Theresa Colvin, executive director of the arts council. She described the fused beams, which she helped select, as "majestic."
"It represents the tragedy of the day," she said. "Yet there's something uplifting about it."
Barbara Bozzuto, a public art commissioner and member of the memorial committee, recalled the August trip to the JFK Airport hangar that houses thousands of scraps from the New York terror site. Silently, the Marylanders walked through the hangar, looking at the material and reading the tags that showed where each piece was bound — from nearby small towns to big cities across the world.
The artifact chosen to become Maryland's memorial, Bozzuto said, "is an emblem not of death and destruction, but of remembrance."
Looking on as the beams arrived was Basmattie Bishundat, a Waldorf resident whose 23-year-old son, Romeo Bishundat, a Navy serviceman, died at the Pentagon. She called it "impressive and great" that Maryland is erecting a memorial and promised to visit it.
The group in the Dundalk parking lot fell silent as the police escort arrived. Next came the beams, strapped to a flatbed truck that passed under an oversize American flag strung from the outstretched ladders of fire equipment.