9-11 Memorial to be built in Mariposa County

FRESNO, Calif.

Bent metal beams from the fallen Twin Towers are filled with meaning and memories.

Chief Jim Wilson said, "I think to the entire fire service there's a real emotional connection to 9-11. We lost so many of our brothers and sisters in that incident."

Mariposa County Fire Chief Jim Wilson applied for the artifacts 18 months ago after learning they were available to public safety agencies for use in local memorials. The four beams, which each weigh about 120 pounds, arrived from New York City this week.

Deputy Chief Jim Middleton said, "That day I remember where I was and now I can actually touch what was there."

The beams also remind this department of the New York firefighters they befriended here in Mariposa after 9-11. But the memorial will honor all four of the groups that lost lives in the tragic attacks.

Donna Brownell said, "The fire service, law enforcement, military and civilian population."

Brownell is a member of the new 9-11 Memorial Committee. She's also the executive director of the local arts council, which is encouraging everyone to submit ideas for the memorial's design. Judges will pick the most inspiring concept.

"They will be looking for the message of hope, American hope." Brownell said.

The location for the memorial is still to be determined. But the committee would like to have it along Highway 140 or in another spot that's easily accessible to residents and tourists.

Millions of people travel through Mariposa County to Yosemite each year, and organizers believe these beams will become another reason to visit. The committee is now raising funds to build the memorial and hoping to dedicate it this year, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Chief Jim Wilson said, "We want to portray the feeling, the emotion with this memorial of being able to say there was a tragedy there and here's the results of some of that tragedy, but out of those ashes string hope and optimism for the future, and I think America is stronger today than we were back then."

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