Building onto the memories

AURORA – Clad in a Harley-Davidson jean jacket and a biker skull cap, Mike Kaminski, 44, of Naperville stood in line to honor those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I remember how it felt, like it just tore my heart out,” he said.

Kaminski was among those who gathered Saturday morning at the Aurora Transportation Center to view a traveling exhibition paying tribute to those who died that day. He was in line to sign a steel beam that will be used in the construction of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Kaminski rolled up his sleeve to show the message that he would write on the beam. It was from a tattoo from his days in the Marines.

“I reckon, I’ll stick with ‘Lest we forget,’ ” he said.

In addition to the beam, the exhibition included photographs, artifacts, a detailed timeline, and a film of the stories of people who were there.

“You don’t really hear that personal insight from everybody, firsthand experience,” said Tanya Mirutenko, 16, of Winnetka.

Mirutenko was attending with her boyfriend, Connor Crown, 16, of Winnetka. His brother Keating is on the September 11 Memorial & Museum board, spoke at the event, and was featured in the film.

Keating Crown was working on the 100th floor of the second World Trade Center tower Sept. 11. He saw the plane hit the first tower – a billow of smoke and flame followed by a rain of paperwork blown from the office building.

“I will never forget the papers,” Keating Crown said.

He and his co-workers made it down to the 78th floor by the time the plane hit the second tower. Fifteen of his co-workers survived. 176 were killed.

Crown broke his leg in the impact. He made it out of the building, aided along the way by rescue workers. As his ambulance pulled away, the tower crumbled.

“As I found out later, all the emergency personnel who were there supporting me were killed,” he said.

Board member Anthoula Katsimatides lost her brother in the attacks. She began crying as she told the crowd about her brother, John.

“This is my fourth stop [with the traveling exhibition] and I often wonder and people ask me, ‘How can you go through this over and over again,’” she said.

Her strength, she said, comes from her brother.

Attendee Laura Lauderdale, 15, of Montgomery, said it was important to remember Sept. 11 and carry the stories of the 2,974 who died into the future.

“I remember Sept. 11,” she said. “I know I was only in the fourth grade, but there are a lot of kids who weren’t there and don’t remember what it was.”

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