When photographer Bill McAllen was called to a parking lot in Dundalk last November, he was given only cryptic hints as to what his subject would be.
But when a flatbed truck pulled up with beams of steel from the twin towers, he started shooting photos, and he hasn't stopped since.
McAllen, a Hampton resident (), was given fly-on-the-wall access to the creation of the 9/11 Memorial of Maryland.
The memorial, currently under construction outside the World Trade Center in Baltimore, consists of three steel columns pulled from the wreckage of the Sept. 11 attacks. Officials, victims and family members will gather to dedicate the memorial at 3 p.m. on the 10th anniversary of those attacks.
By the memorial committee's count, 68 people with Maryland ties died in the Sept. 11 attacks, many of them at the Pentagon.
After the arrival of the steel, McAllen, whose past photography projects include the construction of the Pride of Baltimore II and the restoration of the USS Constellation, volunteered his services to the committee to act as an archivist.
Since last November, McAllen has shot dozens of pictures and more than 100 hours of video of how those mangled steel beams will become a very public monument, from their arrival in Dundalk to the sketches to the installation in Baltimore.
"How do you take this artifact, this steel, this twisted steel from one of the twin towers and place it in a public location?" he said. "You have to be concerned with the sensitivities of that, and the product."
By his count, he's spent 15 hours in meetings, 25 hours watching preservation efforts and many more reviewing and editing his work.
"It is one of these types of projects that you never really think about the hours," he said. "You do it."
As he followed the designers and sat through those meetings, the final design took on a shape that deeply fascinated McAllen.
"We have these uplifting steel pieces which evoke a phoenix, the rising of a bird, the rebirth of a city," he said. "We're not hiding this, we're not burying it in a landfill. We're putting it in public space No. 1 where everyone will see."
McAllen's photos are available on Flickr, and some will be posted in the World Trade Center lobby. He isn't sure what will happen next with the photos and video, "but it's better to shoot it and have it," he said.