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Display of World Trade Center beam in Tampa brings flood of emotions

TAMPA — Mikayla Baker-Waizenhofer wasn't alive the day the twin towers fell.

She didn't grow up knowing who Osama bin Laden was.

But on Saturday, when the 7-year-old laid eyes on a part of the World Trade Center's rubble, she had only one question: "Are the bad guys dead?"

"We told her, 'Yes,' " said her mother, Marjorie Baker-Waizenhofer.

On Saturday, dozens of people gathered in the parking lot of Westfield Citrus Park mall for a chance to see the 13-foot-long, 1,471-pound steel beam. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey donated the beam to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office last month as a 9/11 memorial.

No one is sure which tower it came from. For most people, it doesn't matter anyway.

"It represents one of those moments you will never forget," said Baker-Waizenhofer of Lutz.

With tears forming in her eyes, she showed Mikayla the beam and read her the words written on a display.

"This is a major piece of history," she told Mikayla.

It's a piece of history that Sally Trant of Tampa hopes will help the residents of Hillsborough County remember.

Trant's brother, who worked on the 104th floor of the north tower, died during the terrorist attacks.

The news of bin Laden's death, just days ago, brought memories surging back for many. For Trant, it offered some closure.

"The guy responsible for killing my brother is dead," she said.

But on Saturday, as Trant watched families visit the beam, she couldn't help but wonder what the children with no memory of that day thought of America's celebration of bin Laden's death.

"Kids are probably torn," she said.

With a 9-year-old son, Don and Sharon Haire of Odessa have dealt with that.

Their son, Trevor Haire, was born the week of Sept. 11. He's seen only replays of that day on television.

"It was the hardest thing to explain why we were happy and why we killed somebody," Sharon Haire said. But we tried our best to explain "that the world is a better place without him."

The timing of the beam's display couldn't have been better, Don Haire said as the family stopped by for a look before heading into the mall.

The beam will be on display again today at Westfield Brandon mall from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Responders from the Sheriff's Office, Hillsborough Fire Rescue, Tampa Fire Rescue and the Tampa Police Department will be present.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Office is working with Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe to find a permanent location for the beam. One possibility is Heroes Plaza in Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, 601 Old Water St. in downtown Tampa.

A memorial fund has been set up for public donations and the Sheriff's Office is seeking input on design ideas.

For Brian Muldowney, a piece of the World Trade Center in Tampa means a lot.

One of Muldowney's brothers, a New York City firefighter, died on 9/11. Muldowney, a Hills­borough County firefighter, spent six months afterward helping in New York.

The beam brings that experience home.

"It's only a piece of steel," Muldowney said, "but the things that can be taught from this are unlimited."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@sptimes.com.

Display of World Trade Center beam in Tampa brings flood of emotions 05/07/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 7, 2011 10:03pm]
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