Firemen obtain WTC artifact
September 28, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry
At first glance, the 33-inch steel beam looks like it could come from any demolition site.
Upon further inspection, however, it becomes clear that this piece of metal endured much more. The I-beam, now in the possession of the Orion Township Fire Department, actually is a piece of the 110-story World Trade Center, which was destroyed by a terrorist attack on 9/11, ten years ago.
"We were very moved the first time we I saw it, especially since we lost so many fire fighters that day," said Captain Rich Chuck. "When you touch it, you can almost feel what was going on.
" The devastation to the beam is amazing. The edges are twisted and bent. There had to be so much heat and pressure to create such damage," he explained.
Chuck, a volunteer fire fighter since 1996, came across an email from the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey in September 2009 that announced the availability of World Trade Center artifacts to first responders and government entities. He told Township Fire Marshall Bob Smith about the opportunity to acquire a piece of history. Smith completed the official application.
According to Chuck, demand for the steel artifacts was been huge, with applications coming from police, firemen and government leaders in 48 states and several countries. All of the requests are reviewed by a federal judge, since Ground Zero was the scene of one of the worst crimes in U.S. history.
After 16 months, the fire department finally received the 114-pound artifact last February. It currently is housed at Fire Station No. 4, off Baldwin Road, north of Clarkston Road.
"The artifact is a little bigger than what I expected," said John Pender, a 15-year veteran of the township fire department. "It brought back a lot of memories of that day when so many guys were killed."
A special stand was built for the World Trade Center I-beam, plus a case to transport it. It was first displayed at the Fireman's Ball last March and also made a special appearance at the Patriot Day event at the Orion Veterans Memorial on September 11. It visited Scripps Middle School last week and will be displayed at the Orion Township Hall during Firemen's Day, Oct. 2.
"It was very touching to see and touch the girder and I'm glad Orion Township received the artifact so we can pay homage to those who suffered and died in the tragedy," said resident Noelle Powell, who attended the Patriot Day event with her husband Jeff, a volunteer township fire fighter.
There are a number of ideas being considered for its permanent location. But, right now the beam is more portable. Chuck said he also would like to take it to Lake Orion High School for older kids to experience the pieceof history and connect with the local fire department. He also envisioned at some point taking the artifact to the Orion Center for seniors and other residents to see.
"I don't want people to ever forget what happened – so many lives were lost that day," Pender added. "We're there to help them, but also risking our lives sometimes."
Orion Township residents interested in having the artifact displayed at their location or event should contact Fire Station No. 4