W'boro spectacle: After sparks, Cline memorial sparkles

The installation of a dramatic memorial to 9/11 caused a spectacle of its own Friday afternoon after a support cable touched a live power line, sending up sparks and plunging several businesses in downtown Waynesboro into darkness.

"We're all a little bit shaken up," said Mark Cline, the Natural Bridge-based showman who planned the memorial. "We're just lucky that no one was touching the cable."

According to witnesses, the incident occurred around 1:45pm as a team was hoisting four soft plastic panels to cover one face of a former cold storage building. The idea was to create a representation of the twin towers of the World Trade Center with patriotic images of a flag and eagle in the background.

While power was restored in about an hour to the nearby Kroger grocery and other businesses along Arch Avenue, the fate of the memorial was uncertain at the original time of this posting. Cline, aka "Professor Cline," has been working on the project for a recently-assembled group called 9/11 Tribute.

The incident created a harrowing moment for Scott Balsley. A childhood friend of Cline's, he took a day off work– his birthday– to help raise the tribute. He and Cline were harnessed and hauling up panels at the roof's edge when wind caught a panel "like a parasail," says Balsley.

He says he saw the flash of electricity churning through one of the aircraft-grade cables that was supposed to hold the panels in place but which ended up connecting itself, via unwelcome electricity, to an iron pipe atop the building.

"It arced right behind my foot and then welded right behind me," says Balsley. "It was quite entertaining."


On Sunday, however, Cline assembled a new team of installers who sent the 90-foot-tall vinyl panels soaring up the eight-story building under sunny but somewhat windy skies.

"It looked gorgeous this morning," said Caren Brosi, a classmate of Cline's in the Waynesboro class of 1979. "Very clever."

After erecting another 9/11 memorial in Buena Vista five years ago, Cline says he got the idea for this one while chatting with a friend in the parking lot of the nearby Kroger grocery store and noticing that the mostly-windowless brick building had a pair of bump-outs– one a stairway and the other an elevator shaft.

While various gaps in the building were allowing wind to billow the lightweight material, Cline said that "even with it flapping like that it looks good." He wasn't alone in appreciating the spectacle.

"You are amazing," said a man driving by in a Jeep. "Thank you for everything you do," said a woman in the Jeep's passenger seat.

Later on Sunday, the display became the backdrop for a nighttime ceremony on the eve of America's greatest act of domestic terrorism. And Cline says he's thankful to his wife, Sherry, who helped assemble the panels and to the donors who put up about $10,000 to make the memorial possible.

Cline said that in the interest of safety and to avoid a solemn memorial turning into a kitchy tourist attraction, the display needed to come down before the originally planned 30 days.

"We really just wanted to have it up for this day anyway," he said. "We learned how not to put up giant tarps that first day."

update added Monday, September 12 at 6:43pm
Original headline: W'boro outage: 9/11 memorial goes awry

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So the artist got someone else to suffer for his art?

Me and my homies just going to pray 9/11. And maybe toast a couple 40's to the fallen...