Sept. 11 license plates get few takers in Missouri

A Lee’s Summit woman is promoting the plates on a shoestring budget.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:56 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

It has been more than nine months since Connie Stephens helped unveil Missouri’s “Fight Terrorism” license plate, but she has yet to see it anywhere apart from her own garage.

Since Missouri introduced the personalized plate last year on the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the demand has been low. Only 27 have been ordered, said Keith Bohl, bureau manager of the Driver and Vehicle Services Bureau of the Department of Revenue.

Texas introduced a similar “Fight Terrorism” plate on the same day and has sold 315 pairs. The plate’s popularity in Virginia — its state of origin — has taken off.

In less than two years, Virginia has sold 19,825 of the plates that were introduced in August 2002, said Pam Goheen, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

The idea for the plate came from Vincent Rotundo of Virginia as a response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“My friends tell me that in the Pentagon parking lot, all the cars have ‘Fight Terrorism’ license plates,” Rotundo said.

Stephens, of Lee’s Summit, said her interest in bringing such a plate to Missouri dates to the ceremony she attended when her sister received one of the first Virginia “Fight Terrorism” plates. Her sister’s husband, Charles Burlingame III, was a pilot on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Stephens said her sister expressed how it would be great for every state to offer such a plate, so Stephens returned to Missouri and went to work.

After joining Rotundo in a ceremony at the Missouri Capitol to introduce the plate, Stephens said she has seen meager results from her efforts.

One of the problems, Stephens said, is a lack of promotion.

“Most specialized plates have organizations behind them,” Stephens said. “I am the organization behind this plate, and my funds are very limited.”

When an organization funds promotion of a plate, Bohl said, chances are that more will be sold.

The most popular of Missouri’s

personalized plates is the Children’s Trust Fund, which is on 9,074 vehicles, Bohl said. The next two most popular choices excluding military plates are MU and the fire department plates with 1,847 and 1,639 sold, respectively.

In need of promotional funds, Stephens said she has even taken on more hours at her part-time job working with Hallmark.

“I’ve been trying to make enough money to make posters and fliers,” she said.

The personalized plate allows for up to six characters to be printed above the words “Fight Terrorism.” It also features a pentagon-shaped symbol with an American flag, the word “remember” and a silhouette image of the towers incorporated into the date 9-11-01.

In addition to serving as a memorial, part of the $40 price tag for each plate goes to the Missouri Office of Homeland Security’s Antiterrorism Fund. People can obtain the personalized plate by paying the standard $15 personalized plate fee along with a minimum contribution of $25 to Missouri Homeland Security.

Tim Daniel, director of Missouri Homeland Security, said $185 has been raised.

Daniel said his office has not spent money to promote the plate, but its design, along with an explanation of how the money will be spent, is featured on the Missouri Office of Homeland Security’s home page.

“It would probably cost, in my estimation, more than it would make to promote it,” Daniel said.

Both Stephens and Rotundo said they hope the plate will gain the popularity it has in Virginia. But Rotundo said that the location of the Pentagon and the support of the Arlington County Police Department were reasons the plate received such attention when it was first introduced.

“We had super coverage when the plate was launched in Virginia,” Rotundo said.

Rotundo said he thinks the plate would sell well in Missouri if people only knew it was a choice.

“I know there are people in Missouri who have family members serving in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said. “Those people, if they knew a plate like this is available, I think they would put it on their cars.”

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