Three days after the reported death of Osama bin Laden, who orchestrated and financed the 9/11 attack on the United States, two metal beams salvaged from the destroyed World Trade Center arrived in Laguna Beach.
City Arts Manager Siân Poeschl announced the arrival of the I-beams Tuesday at the City Council meeting, describing the acquisition as a collaborative effort by the Laguna Beach Fire Department and the Arts Commission, funded by a donation from Laguna Beach arts patron Mark Porterfield.
"This morning I had the honor to view the beams as they lay on palettes and I wondered what those beams had experienced on Sept. 11, 2001, and I though how appropriate that as they were in transit to their final resting place, that an evil man named Osama bin Laden was no longer a threat to our country," Fire Chief Kris Head said.
The council approved a collaboration recommendation to hold a competition for a memorial sculpture incorporating the 72-by-36-by-12-inch beams, with bits of concrete from the twin towers still clinging to them. Competition guidelines call for a sculpture to be installed at Monument Point that conveys a message of remembrance, respect and reflection.
"I can think of no better site than Monument Point that could better fulfill the requirement for remembrance, respect and reflection," Head said.
The site was recommended by the city's World Trade Center Committee, which included Mayor Jane Egly.
"They reviewed many locations and determined that site was the most appropriate," Poeschl said.
The competition will be open to all Laguna Beach artists, with the winning entry to be chosen by the council.
"It is an ambitious project, but every effort will be made to have the sculpture in place to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11," Poeschl said.
The arrival of the beams, which left New York on April 27 on a freight truck, was the culmination of months of work, begun when the Laguna Beach Fire Department learned last year that the New York and New Jersey Port Authority was inviting written applications for salvage from the World Trade Center, which it owned. The application was to include why the city wanted the beams and what it intended to do with them.
"[Fire Capt.] Andrew Hill described Laguna Beach as a city of the arts, and the beams as a memorial art installation that would be visited by people from around the world," Poeschl said Monday before the beams arrived.
The request languished. Then Porterfield stepped up to the plate.
"Siân and I go to the same gym and she was telling me they hadn't heard anything about the application for months," Porterfield said. "They had hit the wall so I asked if she would mind if I took a shot at it.
"First you have to find the right people, so I did some research, called around and then I made my pitch.
"I pounded home the theme of remembrance, respect and reflection in every phone call, every letter, even the postcards from Bushards Pharmacy that show what a beautiful city we have, which is visited by tourists from everywhere."
Porterfield reiterated Hill's application, stating over and over that the beams would be handled very respectfully and put in an oceanfront setting that lends itself to reflection on life's good fortune and reflection on those less fortunate.
Once the donation was approved by the port authorities, the next challenge was finding the money to transport the beams and pay for the installation.
When Porterfield learned of this last obstacle, he offered $25,000 to cover the costs, Poeschl said.
"I am just happy to help," Porterfield said.
Head said the project would not have been possible without the application written by Hill, a native of Laguna, and the donation by Porterfield.
Both were at the council meeting.
Head said the men were humble and shy, but he asked them to stand anyway and be recognized .
Arts Commission Chairwoman Mary Ferguson also extended her thanks to the folks who made the acquisition happen.
"We are thrilled," Ferguson said.