Wauconda mayor, board argue about Sept. 11 memorial

  • This World Trade Center beam will be in the center of the planned Sept. 11 memorial in Wauconda.

      This World Trade Center beam will be in the center of the planned Sept. 11 memorial in Wauconda. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Posted7/23/2015 5:30 AM

Wauconda trustees have rejected the proposed wording for a plaque at the Heroes of Freedom memorial being built in town, saying it should focus more on the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and less on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That's a particular concern for Trustee Tim Howe. During the board's meeting Tuesday night at Wauconda High School, Howe questioned proposed references to the wars, saying people are divided over whether those conflicts were justified.


"I think it is important to keep this focused (on) September 11," Howe said. "I would hate to see this memorial politicized."

Howe's comments drew the ire of Mayor Frank Bart, the project's biggest backer at village hall. A military veteran, Bart said the agreement to build the memorial requires mention of the two wars.

"You run the risk of scuttling the whole deal," Bart said.

Howe wasn't the only trustee with objections to the proposed inscription; Trustees Ken Arnswald and John Barbini also raised concerns.

But Barbini said he also liked this version of the inscription better than a prior version, especially a segment about the history of a World Trade Center beam that will be part of the display.

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Eventually, trustees decided to draft a new inscription and propose it to the volunteer committee overseeing the project.

The memorial is the brainchild of former Gurnee Trustee Kirk Morris. He's spent years trying to publicly honor his late son, Marine Pfc. Geoffrey Morris, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in Wauconda last week for the Heroes of Freedom Memorial, which will be built on village-owned land near the police station and an older veterans memorial.

Bart led the ceremony. Some trustees later complained it was too hastily organized for them to attend.

The centerpiece of the memorial will be a beam salvaged from one of the fallen twin towers.

A foundation Morris created acquired the beam, and he agreed to share it with Wauconda after similar plans in Gurnee fell apart.

According to design plans, the beam will be displayed on a pentagonal platform. Walls, benches and other elements also are planned.


The project is being funded through private donations. A public unveiling is scheduled for Sept. 11.

The inscription reviewed by the board Tuesday night included several references to the recent wars, and Howe called them inappropriate. He also said some people have questioned why Wauconda is honoring a Marine from Gurnee.

"I have no problem acknowledging Pfc. Morris and his sacrifice," Howe said. "But this is not a memorial to Pfc. Morris."

Howe and Barbini suggested some wording changes to the proposed inscription, including removing an entire paragraph about the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

That vexed Bart, who served in Afghanistan with the National Guard. He said it would anger the memorial committee members, too.

But the deal with Morris gives the board final say over the inscription. Howe said he believes the board can accomplish the goals of the memorial "with a little bit of editing."

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