Southern Illinois is home to one of the nation’s largest memorials to the 9/11 attacks and now features a chilling monument to the tragedy.
Today will mark 15 years since terrorists flew two commercial jets into the World Trade Center towers, killing thousands of Americans.
Belleville's 9/11 memorial now features a steel beam that was warped and twisted by the intense heat of the attack. Placed between two concrete pillars, the monument was funded by local donations and installed by local volunteers. The beam was delivered several years ago but was placed in between two large cement pillars this week by local volunteer steelworkers.
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The monument sits on a pentagon-shaped plaza that points east toward New York City. The walkway to the plaza, located at the intersection of Routes 15 and 159, is 343 feet long, symbolic of the 343 firefighters who lost their lives that day.
Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said the monument that sits in front of a new fire station is a somber reminder of that day.
"When you think about all these different things that have happened in recent years, it's very important that we keep these memories and these heroes in our thoughts and prayers," Eckert said.
Eckert's son, Lt. Col. Matthew Eckert, is a trauma surgeon in the U.S. Army serving in Iraq.
Belleville's annual ceremony at the memorial is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m.