Woman Says Suburban Village Wants Her 9/11 Memorial Removed

Leigh Gardella-Wood and her husband say the memorial to the Sept. 11 attacks is important to the community and should stay on their property

A couple is trying to keep a memorial to the September 11 attacks in their yard after their village in the north suburbs of Chicago sent them a letter saying it must be removed.

Leigh Gardella-Wood and her husband bought the shuttered Spring Bluff Elementary School in Winthrop Harbor back in 2011, and now live there with their family.

The school had a memorial rock on the property when they purchased it that Gardella-Wood said the village asked to move before they closed on the home.

Gardella-Wood said she and her husband agreed and asked the village to move the boulder within the year and put the property back together, which local officials never did.

In June 2012, Girl Scout Kasha Strathman took the 9/11 memorial on as her Gold Award project, raising money for the plaque that now sits on the boulder, reading "We Shall Never Forget" above a dedication to "those who serve."

A few months later, the village attempted to move the boulder but Gardella-Wood said after an uproar, it was left in its place. But Gardella-Wood said Monday that she received a letter from the village board last week informing her that the signage on the memorial was "obsolete" and must be removed.

"I have never heard of a plaque being an issue. There are people who have plaques in their yard all over the place— it is not gawdy, it is not hurting anybody," Gardella-Wood said.

Gardella-Wood said there are many in the community who like the memorial and want it to stay.

"I think this is needed. We have a lot of people who are veterans. By the village wanting it gone, it hurts. People come here and reflect or to get away," she said.

The letter said she has 10 days to remove the plaque or the village could remove it and even fine her up to 500 dollars a day. Gardella-Wood said that if she is forced to move it, a local VFW said it will install the memorial on its property.

"We made donations to it, I say it needs to stay there," Richard Coombe, of the VFW, said. He is one of many neighbors who expressed that sentiment.

"It is a memorial to people - why move something that is a memorial to people?" asked Michael Hoeth.

Gardella-Wood said she hoped to keep the memorial on the property and was confused as to why it would need to be removed at all.

"I don't know what to think because I don't understand what they are thinking," she said of the village. "I don't understand how a community that is so close, that they would find a plaque or memorial obsolete."

"People worked really hard to have that put there. People died on 9/11," Gardella-Wood continued. "It’s not something we can just forget. It is coming up - how do you forget that?"

The Winthrop Harbor village hall was closed for the Labor Day holiday on Monday, so the mayor and village board did not respond to request for comment.

The issue of the memorial was expected to be up for discussion at the board's next meeting on Tuesday night.

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