ANTHONY – Over 1,300 miles separate New York City and Anthony, but a bond cultivated between the communities since the 9/11 terrorist attacks erases that distance. And, as America solemnly commemorates the 10th anniversary of fateful September morning this weekend, they, along with Great Bend, will again be inexorably linked.
On Saturday afternoon, in a small park on the west edge of this small south central Kansas town, local residents and attack survivors will gather at what has become Kansas’ official 9/11 memorial for a time of reflection and celebration. Great Bend vocalist Melanie Ryan will be a part of that ceremony, as will several area Patriot Guard motorcyclists.
“Even after 10 years, when a tragedy at this magnitude happens it’s as if it occurred just down the street,” said Ryan, whose husband Chris is an Anthony native. “You ask ‘what can I do to help?’”
So, when Donna Crow with the Anthony 9/11 Memorial Committee approached Ryan about singing for the memorial, she was honored. “I knew it would be the perfect chance to show my gratitude and support.”
The observance will start at 4:30 p.m. with a march from the Anthony Fire Department to the park, followed by a presentation of flags, the National Anthem sung by Ryan, a welcome by Anthony Mayor Larry Claflin and a free meal. Ryan will perform again just before the memorial service, which will feature music, prayer and presentations by New York Fire Department 9/11 veterans.
Local musicians and students will take part as well.
There will also be a service starting at 7:45 a.m. Sunday and ending at 9:15.
It was at 7:46 a.m., Anthony time, that American Airlines Flight 11, hijacked by five terrorists, flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. At 9:28, the second of the twin towers collapsed.
The memorial was born out of the effort by Anthony residents to reach out to the attack victims. Multiple contacts back and forth with fire fighters at a New York City firehouse initiated trips back and forth and deep friendships.
“We felt to helpless” after the attacks, said memorial committee member Debbie Mangen. John Scott, then mayor of Anthony, and other residents started raising funds and decided they wanted to donate to a family of a fallen fireman.
That lead to a relationship with FDNY Lt. Joe Huber who came to Anthony in 2002 and brought shards of glass from the World Trade Center. The seed for the memorial was planted and the question was asked “why not get something from each of the three attack sites.”
A committee was formed and fund raisers started. They sold bricks, T-shirts and brownies. “We all got together,” Mangen said. Even a class of grade school students in Anthony adopted the firehouse, sending cards and cookies on a regular basis.
The memorial includes steel from the ill-fated World Trade Center, a stone from the Pentagon and soil from the Shanksville, Pa., crash site where the terrorists were foiled. There are also ashes and soot from ground zero churned into the dirt.
“We’re the only memorial in the United States to have all three crash sites represented,” Mangen said. “We feel very honored.”
The original estimate for the memorial was $40,000 which doubled to over $80,000 before it was finished. No tax money was used and all the funds came from donations of individuals and corporations, and many fund raisers. These efforts, including brick sales, continue for landscaping, maintenance and to replace all the flags twice a year.
It was Sept. 11, 2004, that the residents of Anthony dedicated their memorial. It was completed in 2005.
Resolutions passed by the House and Senate in the Kansas Legislature designated the site as the official Kansas 9/11 memorial for 2005 and 2006.
Anthony, too, knows of disaster. On July 8, 2009, much of the downtown was destroyed by fire, including a business owned by Chris Ryan’s family.
“During the Sunday morning memorial service I’ll also have a chance to thank our local fire-fighters who battled the fire,” Ryan said. “Their efforts to save our family clothing store Muller Brothers (which had been in business for over 100 years) will always be remembered.”