PHOENIX — A favorite stop for travelers on the highway of the old Route 66 is the "corner of Winslow, Arizona" popularized by the Eagles song “Take It Easy.”
But retired Winslow Councilwoman Dee Rodriguez made sure visitors to Winslow have another landmark to visit, a 9/11 memorial garden that features two large beams from the Twin Towers.
As the town prepares to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attack, the garden will be a focal point of pride and reverence.
“The way everything happened, it was like it was supposed to,” Rodriguez said regarding the construction of the memorial.
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In 2002, Rodrigeuz was charged with creating a 9/11 memorial and was given $300.
“I just knew we needed something more than just a couple of little trees,” she said.
Dee learned wreckage from the Twin Towers was available in New York for those willing to retrieve it. She coordinated a trucking company to pick up two steel beams standing more than a dozen feet tall.
Volunteers appeared like angels.
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“One day we sat in a restaurant and a man walked up to us and said 'what are you going to do with the beams?' and we told him we have no idea. And he said, 'I'm a contractor. I live in Winslow and I'll put them up for you.’" Rodriguez said.
Grade school students, ROTC students and local businesses volunteered their time to construct the site.
"I've never seen Winslow come together in that way," Rodriguez said.
Her efforts were inspired at least in part by her own sacrifice on the altar of freedom. Rodriguez’s father William Gallegos was killed in World War II when Rodriguez was a child.
"I get emotional. I try not to, but I just had this feeling inside me that [the memorial] needed to be done,” Rodriguez said.
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Since the memorial was installed, it has been relocated to a site where it gets more exposure from visitors.
"I come here often and there are always people here,” Rodriguez said. "I've had commercial pilots come here and say, 'we just want to see this. We want to touch it.'"
Visitors leave tokens and notes in two hallowed holes of the beams.
Even with everything she has accomplished, Rodriguez considers the memorial a work in progress.
"We hope to get some benches out here,” Rodriguez said. "We haven't gotten that far yet."
9/11: 20 Years Later
Watch more stories as we observe one of the darkest days in American history, and the lessons learned after the country came together in solidarity afterward.