Sept. 11 memorial plan becomes political issue in Wauconda
Some believe the monument -- the centerpiece of which is a 7.5-ton beam from the World Trade Center wreckage -- should focus on the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Others believe it also should pay significant homage to the troops who have fought in subsequent wars.
Running for three seats in the April 4 election are incumbent Tim Howe; Wauconda Park District Trustee Adam Schlick; and newcomers Richard Morino, Joe Lewis, Mike Silverman and Dan Casper.
Dedicated in 2015, the memorial stands near the southwest corner of Route 176 and Main Street. It was proposed by former Gurnee Trustee Kirk Morris, who obtained the beam.
In addition to that piece of steel, the memorial features a large wall listing the names of people killed on Sept. 11.
Morris initially sought a memorial in Gurnee honoring troops from Lake County who'd served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His son, Geoffrey, was a Marine who was killed in Iraq.
The Gurnee project never fully materialized, however, and in 2014 Morris brought the plan to Wauconda.
Wauconda Mayor Frank Bart, a military veteran, was among those who said the memorial should honor both troops and the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. Trustees said storyboards planned for the memorial should focus on Sept. 11 more than the wars.
Although the beam and other elements are in place, the storyboards are absent.
An advisory question about the memorial will appear on April 4 ballots. It asks if the storyboards should include text about the U.S. military's actions in the global war on terrorism, the Iraq War and the war in Afghanistan.
Casper insists the site should recognize veterans and troops killed in action.
"I feel it's important to honor the incredibly brave soldiers that have sacrificed their lives for our country, and (it's) equally important to be able to tell their story," he said.
Silverman agrees that the memorial should honor U.S. troops as well as the first responders who died on Sept. 11.
"The only reason we have this memorial in town is because a father who lost his son in the global war on terrorism was able to have this beam brought to Wauconda," Silverman said.
Lewis said the memorial should be expanded "to cover all the heroes of freedom."
But Howe believes the memorial should focus on the events and victims of Sept. 11, calling it a "unique opportunity to honor the people who lost their lives that day."
Howe has consistently opposed turning it into a military monument. That belongs at Wauconda's veterans memorial, which is on park district-owned land next to the Heroes of Freedom site, he said. He supports a proposal to link the sites and update the veterans memorial to include more recent conflicts.
Schlick, who was inspired by the Sept. 11 attacks to become a firefighter, believes the Heroes of Freedom Memorial should focus on the people killed that day. He supports connecting the two memorials, saying it will create something "our village can be proud of."
Morino also favors connecting the Heroes of Freedom site to the veterans memorial. But the storyboards at the Heroes of Freedom Memorial should reference the wars that followed the Sept. 11 attacks, Morino said.
"There's no doubt the two are linked," he said.
Wauconda's mayoral candidates, Bryan Anderson and Lincoln Knight, also differ on the Heroes of Freedom Memorial's focus.
Anderson said the monument should prominently honor veterans.
"Just by its name, it says we are talking about people in the armed forces," he said. "'Heroes of Freedom' is not a reference that's made to police and fire."
Knight, who was on a subcommittee that drafted wording for the storyboards, said that group wanted the displays to address the wars but not make them a prime focus.
"We wanted more," he said. "We wanted to tell the whole story."