While children who weren’t yet born on Sept. 11, 2001, played in a playground nearby, a steel beam pulled from the ruins of the World Trade Center was the center piece for a Fort Collins memorial held Saturday near Spring Park.
The 5-foot long, 3,059 pound beam will be featured behind Fire Station 3 near Spring Park. Upon its construction in 2017, the beam will become part of a memorial that will tell the story of the beam’s journey to Fort Collins and honor the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
“My hope is that the beam will serve as a constant reminder that every day firefighters, police officers and first responders put their lives on the line for all of us,” said Fort Collins City Council member Kristen Stephens.
Some were content with just being in its presence, but many in attendance reached out to touch the steel wrapped in Old Glory.
The beam acted as a reminder of the day for those who wanted to feel a tangible connection to what was 15 years ago a simple I-Beam in a New York skyscraper.
The Journey of the Beam
The beam was pulled from the wreckage of the World Trade Center and brought to Fort Collins over the course of a 1,800-mile trip from New York.
A group of firefighters traveled to New York City with nothing but a pick-up truck and a trailer. They had worked with the Terry Farrel Firefighters Fund, the New York Port Authority and other supporters in the community to get permission to bring the beam to Fort Collins and raise $25,000 in the process.
Poudre Fire Authority Battalion Chief Doug Lee detailed the journey of the beam after PFA Division Chief of Operations Rick Vander Velde spoke on the significance of the day itself.
“What the four of us believed would be just be a road trip ended up being an emotional journey we will remember for the rest of our lives,” Lee said.
The firefighters made a few stops along the way, which Lee said turned into hour-long ordeals thanks to curious people asking about the beam and its significance.
“As we headed west, all four lanes were closed, except for the procession,” Lee said. “We were rarely without an escort.”
As they drove underneath highway crossings in Chicago, Lee recalled seeing local firefighters lined up saluting as they drove underneath. Lee said they were “waving flags as we went by.”
After four days and nearly 1,800 miles of driving, the flag made it to Fort Collins in October 2015. It was originally kept away from public viewing at Fire Station 4, but was moved to its new home at Station 3 near Spring Park for the ceremony and public viewing.
The Memorial at Spring Park
The memorial’s final design is still being developed, however, artist renderings were available for public viewing at the ceremony.
The renderings show a memorial split into five screens, each showing a particular aspect of the September 11 attacks. The design encompasses three design elements intended to reflect the tone of the memorial – chaos, represented by jagged lines, contemplation, represented by blank space, and honor, represented by parallel, orderly lines.
Construction on the memorial is expected to begin this year and complete sometime in 2017.
15 Years Later
Stephens described her own experience the morning of the September 11 attacks while she spoke to the crowd about the meaning of the beam.
“I was waiting for one kid to get on the bus, for the other to get to swimming lessons, and (as I was) making lunch I turned on the TV and was horrified,” Stephens said.
Stephens kept a focus on honoring the bravery of first responders, saying that those acts of bravery remind her that there is still good in the world. She also thanked the World Trade Center Beam Committee in Fort Collins for working on a final design for the memorial.
There was one man who kept a sign lowered during the ceremony that read, ” 9 11 WE NEED TRUTH.” The man was not vocal during the ceremony and did not appear to be making any major disturbances immediately after, although he did raise the sign a few times in the hours that followed.
“It’s almost like a religious symbol,” Lee said on the beam. “They don’t know how to treat it.”
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