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Southside demolition yields 9/11 memorial

by Tia Lyons | February 24, 2016 at 5:00 a.m.

Tia Lyons

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Plans are in the works for a ceremony to rededicate a memorial marker honoring a U.S. Navy Specialist who lost his life in the Sept. 11 tragedy, which will mark its 15th anniversary later this year.

A stone marker paying tribute to Nehamon Lyons IV, a Pine Bluff native, was dedicated at the former Southside Elementary School in 2002 as part of a community-wide tribute to the victims and heroes of 9/11.

The city recently razed the school building at South Jackson and Pecan, and the Lyons’ marker was moved to City Hall for safe-keeping and to preserve its integrity.

Hash said city crews were concerned that the stone may be damaged by the demolition work and the hauling away of debris from the site.

“You could hardly see it. It was flush with the ground. If we had left it on that lot, it wouldn’t be protected over there,” Hash said.

The mayor has suggested that the marker be added to the permanent 9/11 memorial at the El Dorado Conference Center, which is owned by the city and operated/managed by South Arkansas Community College.

Dr. Barbara Jones, president of SouthArk, said school officials are considering incorporating a recognition ceremony of the Lyons’ marker into a Sept. 11 commemoration that is a regular part of the annual Outdoor Expo.

Jones noted that expo is typically held around Sept. 11, and this year the event is set for Sept. 10.

“We thought it would be great to have some type of recognition, so we want to wait to place it,” she said.

The existing 9/11 memorial on the conference center grounds includes a 700-pound piece of steel from the rubble of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the attacks.

The steel was delivered in 2011 in recognition of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and as part of a program by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to donate 9/11 artifacts to local communities across the country.

Linda Fitts and Sandy McGuire, former director of El Dorado Connections and former Southside principal, respectively, said that at the time, Lyons, 30, was the first Arkansan of which they had heard to die in 9/11.

Lyons was at the Pentagon during the attacks.

Fitts, who coordinated the 2002 community tribute, which commemorated the one-year anniversary of 9/11, said she asked McGuire then if a marker could be placed at Southside to recognize Lyons’ service and sacrifice.

The marker was part of a butterfly memorial garden on the southwest corner of school campus, and it remained there until a few days ago.

Southside Elementary closed at the end of the 2002 - 2003 school year, several months after the Lyons’ marker was placed there. There is also a paver honoring Lyons on the Community Memorial Wall surrounding the Union County Courthouse.


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