WAUCONDA, Ill. — In Wauconda, a steel beam marks the tragic day in America’s history, as one of the few pieces of the Twin Towers now calls suburban Chicago home.
More than 800 miles from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, retired Army Lt. Colonel Ryan Yantis, who was at the Pentagon when Flight 77 crashed into it, marked the day the way he has so many times in the past, by telling his story and honoring those we lost.
“They share with me the faces, the memories of the New York fire, EMS and police and those first responders went up, determined, stoic and trying to help people,” Yantis said.
Wauconda’s 19-foot tall steel beam comes from the World Trade Center’s 91st floor of the North Tower, serving as the centerpiece to the village’s 9/11 Memorial Park.
“Every day I pass by it on my way to work. Every day, 365 days a year. I don’t forget,” Omar Cendejaz said, whose cousin was killed in the attacks.
Cendejaz came to the memorial today to honor his cousin, who he says he talked to just the day before he was killed.
“I was only 18 years old when the world changed, and it’s just…we all lost our family’s loved ones, grandkids. It doesn’t get any easier,” Cendejaz said.
For those who were just children 20 years ago, the memorial is a way to connect to a day that changed so much.
“I was in 4th grade on 9/11 and not fully understanding it and this year, it hit me completely and fully. People were destroyed. I feel I have to honor that,” Carrie King said.
For Lt. Col. Yantis, it’s a way to ensure that honor extends after he is gone.
“They don’t have a first-person recollection of that day. I’m a living artifact, part of my job, as long as I draw breath, is to share my experience, inform them and hopefully inspire them,” Yantis said.