From wreckage of 9/11 to Manatee monument?

LAKEWOOD RANCH — A conversation between two Lakewood Ranch men may mushroom into a memorial to honor Sept. 11 casualties as well as America’s war dead.

The conversation last Labor Day weekend between Gene Sweeney and John Breiner has led to a “9/11 and Fallen Military Heroes Memorial” to be proposed for the flag pole area in front of Town Hall.

The men hope the memorial can be erected on District 2-owned land in front of Town Hall, as the Herald first reported Tuesday.

The District 2 board will take up the idea beginning 9 a.m. Thursday at Town Hall.

Don O’Leary, one of the District 2 supervisors, said Tuesday night he has seen the plans for the memorial and likes what he sees.

The centerpiece would be a 4,000-pound, 14-inch box beam, approximately 10 to 12-feet in length, from the World Trade Center.

The box beam would be placed in an eight-sided cement foundation and the beam would stand erect inside the concrete.

The concrete will be surrounded by black granite.

Individuals could have the names of family members lost in 9/11 or in a war inscribed on the granite.

Sweeney contacted the September 11 Families Association and the New York/New Jersey Port Authorities to obtain the beam from the World Trade Center wreckage.

Sweeney then contacted Ralph Vincent, an instructor at Manatee Technical Institute, who made the design of the memorial a community project for his students.

Cory Pike, a senior at Lakewood Ranch High School and a part-time 3D animation student at MTI, designed the artist’s rendering of the memorial.

Sweeney contacted Carl Wallin of Lakewood Ranch, the owner-operator of a tractor-trailer. Wallin got permission from Reliable Carriers, Inc. of Canton, Mich., to truck the beam from New York to Lakewood Ranch as a donation, Sweeney said.

District 2 will not have to pay anything for the memorial, Sweeney said.

Local sponsors, including John Saputo of Gold Coast Eagle Distributors, Lou Marinaccio and Ron Reagan of MGA Insurance and others have donated the funds needed for the memorial, Sweeney said.

“The memorial will be given as a gift in perpetuity,” Sweeney said.

Breiner said the memorial will allow local residents to pay their respects here at home.

Sweeney recalls that long ago conversation between he and Breiner, owner of Ed’s Tavern.

“I said to John, ‘Can you believe it’s been nine years since 9/11 and there’s still a hole in the ground at Ground Zero in New York?’ ” said Sweeney, who lived in New York. “I said, ‘John, why don’t we build a memorial?’ ”

Now they are trying.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 748-0411, ext. 6686.