When the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) asked B&B Metal Arts (Hoisington, KS) to create an artistic memorial for the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks using an original piece of a World Trade Center I-beam, the company didn’t hesitate to volunteer its services. The memorial would be displayed in up to seven airports across Kansas.
B&B Metal Arts owners Bruce and Brent Bitter designed a memorial to hang in the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport that will be a 4-foot circle featuring a modified American flag with 9 stars and 11 stripes (representing the date) encasing an eagle with a wingspan of 56 inches, and a 24-inch section of the I-beam. The other airports will receive a replica of the memorial at half scale with an original piece of the beam.
But the first question that the Bitters had when they received the I-beam was what final protective finish to use. For help, they contacted Products Finishing painting expert Carl Izzo.
Brent told Carl that the beam was in storage and had been in an oxygen-purged tent for a few years. He said that the TSA recommended he find some way to clean the beam but leave the original finish intact.
Carl suggested that, since the beam will be touched by the public while on display, it must be cleaned to remove any toxicants. He advised that, to preserve the “original” finish or look of the artifact under those conditions, it must be coated with a flat, clear finish—either a flat, clear two-component polyurethane or an epoxy coating. Carl said that since the clear finish will be flat, with no gloss, it will be practically imperceptible.
The Bitters enlisted the help of Fuller Brush to help with the cleaning and then called on S&S Reel Manufacturing to assist with the final spray coating.
“The World Trade Center Twin Towers represents one of the major places where terror took place, but the eagle is representing the freedom and carrying the burden of the event,” Brent Bitters says.
Every hand-sculptured piece is made of stainless steel, and the finish will be torch-flame treated to produce different colors. Even though the concept has colors, the red, white and blue will be represented by different flame tones as each piece is heated differently, Brent says.
“I haven't forgotten,” he says. “I know the country hasn't forgotten.”