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Twisted, Rusted I-Beam Helps Town Remember September 11

Twisted, Rusted I-Beam Helps Town Remember September 11

Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

September 10, 2010

MOUNT LAUREL, PA – Every Sept. 11 since the world changed, the firefighters of Station 362 in Mount Laurel have gathered by their flagpole to observe a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., when the first hijacked plane struck the World Trade Center.

They bow their heads and fold their hands in memory of the 343 firefighters and nearly 2,500 other victims who died that day.

Now the men and women of Station 362 – and the township itself – will have a physical artifact to help them reflect on that awful day.

At a station-house ceremony Thursday afternoon, officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno presented the department with a large steel I-beam salvaged from the World Trade Center wreckage.

The 17-foot, 800-pound twisted and rusted I-beam will become the centerpiece of a 9/11 memorial to be built in front of the firehouse.

“Time heals wounds and memories fade,” Capt. Todd Evans said during the ceremony. “Now we will have a visual reminder.”

Mount Laurel is one of 12 New Jersey communities receiving World Trade Center steel as part of an effort by the Port Authority to present municipalities with vestiges of the calamity for their 9/11 memorials.

More than 600 New Jersey residents died in the 9/11 attacks, including 15 who lived or grew up in South Jersey. Four people died from Burlington County, home of Station 362, including Leroy Homer, 36, of Marlton, a copilot of United Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pa.

Station 362 offered to assist on the day of the attack, but was called back when it was clear there were enough resources at ground zero, Mount Laurel Fire Chief Robert Gallos Jr. said.

In the weeks after the World Trade Center attacks, the Port Authority hired consultants to scour ground zero for artifacts that could be used when a permanent memorial was constructed on the site, said Steve Coleman, a Port Authority spokesman.

More than a thousand objects, including twisted street signs and damaged fire trucks and subway cars, were hauled to an abandoned hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Last year, after the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York finished selecting items for its site, the Port Authority sent e-mails to cities, towns, and police and fire departments across the country, asking if they were interested in some of the remaining steel.

The main criterion was that the artifacts be used in “permanent and public displays,” Coleman said. The beams are free, but the recipients are responsible for transporting them. The Port Authority received more than 1,000 requests from around the globe. “Now we’re in the process of trying to fill them all,” Coleman said.

Pennsauken, Vineland, Maple Shade, Gloucester Township, and Burlington County are also set to receive some of the steel.

The Cherry Hill Fire Department last week obtained a four-foot piece of a World Trade Center I-beam, which it will incorporate into a planned 9/11 memorial outside the department’s Central Command Building, Assistant Fire Chief Tom Kolbe said.

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