The memorial began without plan but full of purpose, strangers strewing a few first responder T-shirts on the wrought-iron fence beneath Las Vegas’ Statue of Liberty days after Sept. 11, 2001.
The offering eventually grew to nearly 6,000 shirts and scribbled notes from firehouses all over the world, leading the New York-New York hotel-casino to encase a rotating collection of the items in glass and granite.
But the condolences and kind words no longer grace the feet of the local Lady Liberty. On Friday, rubble marked where the offerings lay for more than a decade. MGM Resorts has removed the memorial and won’t be returning it anywhere to the Manhattan-themed casino property, spokeswoman Mary Hynes said.
The 16-year-old casino is midway through a $100 million renovation that includes changes to the facade, new businesses and a plaza.
In a statement, MGM spokesman Clark Dumont said, “We are working with representatives of the First Responder community in Las Vegas to identify and determine an appropriate and permanent placement of the memorial to the victims of September 11th.”
But it sprang up here — in front of a concrete Upper New York Bay and fake FDNY boat spraying water into the air — for a reason. This may not be the real Big Apple, even though it may look it. The statue isn’t copper weathered to a green patina. Just plaster and paint. But it was a reminder. And, with those shirts, it became something more than just a façade of New York.
Dumont reassured the public Friday that the dozen or so items from the rotating collection have been “carefully stored” in collaboration with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The university stores and catalogs thousands more items placed at the memorial in boxes at its library.
Gambling professor David Schwartz, who oversees the collection with MGM, says the university is working with MGM to find a new memorial site so the shirts can be seen.
“It shows the connection a lot of people around the world have with Las Vegas,” he said.
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.