Hawaiian students propose minting a coin to mark 9/11 tragedy

As the dust settled and crews started hauling rubble away from the site of the World Trade Center collapse, people were already talking about what kind of memorial the city of New York should erect in memory of those who died there.

But at Kihei High School in Hawaii, Josh McConnell was thinking in different terms. He had heard about proposals to use the steel salvaged from the wreckage in a monument near the former site of the buildings.

"But it wasn't going to be accessible to everyone, 'cause not everyone could get to New York," Josh says. So he and classmate Chris Giaconi came up with an idea that could involve people all across the country: Use the scrap metal to mint a US coin - maybe a penny, nickel, or dime - to commemorate the tragedy.

"What better way to make it accessible to the people and a better monument, than making it a part of the economy?" Josh asks. "People were going all the way over there just so they could take a little bottle and stick some dirt inside, so they could take it home and say they were a part of it. If you've got a piece of this right inside your pocket ... the entire nation will remember."

So Josh wrote their proposal up in a letter, and Chris and another friend, Jana Kirby, sent it over e-mail to hundreds of addresses. "Not only," it read, "will the production of a monetary memorial allow every individual to carry a reminder of this historical event, but it will also aid in stimulating confidence in the American economy, and show the world that the people of the United States of America stand together.... We will rise from the ashes of this great tragedy, united as a nation."

So far they've had more than 1,000 responses, and the positive feedback keeps pouring in from teachers, friends, community members, and the local press. Two of the students' state congressional representatives have been in touch to offer their support, but "they've been really busy with all the stuff that's going on," Josh says. To get a coin minted, he adds, one of the representatives would need to propose a bill about it in Congress. No one has offered yet, but Josh is hoping to meet with the governor soon to discuss the possibility.

"It's gonna be a lot of work," he admits, "But I think it would be a really, really cool way to do this so that everybody could actually have a piece of it."

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