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Block stacker hopes for statewide exposure for 9-11 models
new deh block stacker main pic
Tom Humburg works on a scale model of the Pentagon Friday afternoon at the Great Bend Expo Grounds. He builds wooden replicas of the building and the World Trade Center to remind people of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

If you want to see it:

Tom Humburg, AKA the block stacker, will have his wooden replicas of the World Trade Center and Pentagon on display from 1-5 p.m. today in the Expo III building at the Great Bend Expo Grounds west of Great Bend on 10th Street. The open house is free to the public.

A small space heater took the chill out of the air in the cavernous Expo III building at the Great Bend Expo Grounds Friday afternoon, and the smell of wood filled the air.

Beneath a huge American Flag, Tom Humburg knelt on a foam cushion in a corner of that steel structure. He was building the Pentagon.

Actually, he was building a scale model of the famed military office complex out of small wooden blocks. A short distance away, models of the World Trade Center rose from the plywood platform, flanked by large step ladders.


Through his models, Humburg pays tribute to the those who died on the fateful morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked airliners and used them as weapons against the United States by slamming them into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. "I never want us to forget that," he said, taking a brake from his work.

The quiet Great Bend man first set up his display during the Barton County Fair in July. He painstakingly laid each block into place to recreate the structures without glue to hold them into place.

The exhibit was hugely popular, attracting the attention of military personnel and veterans. But, he said, not everyone got a chance to see it.

Now, he has added the Pentagon and the patriotic backdrop, and is planning an open house from 1-5 p.m. today the Expo complex. "I just want people to experience this."

He also has higher hopes. A week from now, representatives from the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson will be in Great Bend to look at his creations. There is a strong possibility they may be included in the 10-day statewide event that opens Sept. 9.

"This year, 9-11 falls during the State Fair," Humburg said. They may be able to get state and federal officials on hand to mark the occasion.

He has a trailer now, and hopes to someday take the display on tour.

"This is something that is very, very near to me," Humburg said of the project and what it represents. "I’m an old military man."

He also wants to get at least a photo of the plane that was hijacked, but crashed into a field after the passengers thwarted the terrorists’ plans.

A few pieces, like the corners of the pentagon, are glued. But, most of the 16,000 blocks (which are about the size of a large package of chewing gum) are free-standing. They were cut from white pine 2x4s and sanded.

The tallest tower is 13 1/2 feet tall. It takes two people eight days to assemble.

The Twin Towers were the world’s tallest buildings from 1972 to 1973, surpassing the Empire State Building but then being surpassed by the Sears Tower.