The hunk of steel is the upper section of an I-beam. A chunk of concrete with a few strands of rebar bent back hand on steel pegs about six-inches high.
But it’s more than that. It’s one of the pieces left of a tower that no longer stands. It is a hunk of steel and concrete floor taken from the rubble where the World Trade Center towers once stood. Fifteen years ago today, the towers crumbled to the ground in billows of smoke and dust after two commercial jets were used as weapons in a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
Though the piece of steel came to Covington last year, it arrived — hand delivered by Covington firefighters Tim Martin, Matt Bruno and Johnathan Fuqua to the Pace Street Firehouse in October — this is the first time of the attacks the steel has been in the city on Sept. 11. (See story “Steel from World Trade Center given to Covington Fire Department” at http://www.covnews.com/archives/200134/.)
A special pedestal, rich in symbolism, was built to hold the acrylic case displaying the steel. The base is a pentagon, in honor of the attack on the U.S. Department of Defense. Concrete, a tribute to the elevator shafts in the towers, rises out of a pile of concrete rubble, where a fire fighter’s badge is half buried.
Holes have been sledgehammered into the concrete pillar and blackened around the edges. A yellow light shines up from the base, representing the fires caused by jet fuel that swept down the shafts, ultimately bringing the two towers of the World Trade Center crumbling down.
Above the pedestal that reads, “All Gave Some, Some Gave All. Lest we forget.” Hanging on the wall behind the pedestal is an American flag; to the left of the flag is the logo of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY), to the right, the logo of the Covington Fire Department. The box used to bring the remnant home sits nearby.
The memorial sits inside the front door of the Pace Street Fire Station, a reminder of what first responders in Manhattan gave up that day, 15 years ago today. Of the first responders who died that day, 343 were FDNY firefighters.
“The fire service is a brotherhood,” Bowles said. “One of the things we’re not about to let happen is to let traditions go. One of the early statements that came out [about 9-11] was ‘never forget.’”
Just as they won’t forget the anniversary of the attacks, Bowles said, they won’t forget the number 343.
“No matter how tough it gets, not matter how critical the incident where we’re at, our job is to persevere, to push through, to see it to the end,” he said. “Because of the 343 firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice, it strengthens our resolve, our commitment.
“You’re committed to the firefighter working beside you,” Bowles said, “committed to your crew, to the department being the best it can be. At the end of the day, there was someone who dialed 9-1-1 because of an issue. Our commitment is we’re going to resolve that issue … 343 of FDNY brothers had the same resolve on 9/11/2001. On 9/11/2016, we can have that same resolve.”
Bowles said he thinks about the mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino in December 2015, when three police officers entered the building and began to evacuate survivors. “I’ll never forget the police officer who stood there and said, ‘I’ll take a bullet for you.’ We will be willing to say, ‘I’ll be willing to go through that flame for you.”
Last year, the 9-11 attacks were commemorated with memorial readings at significant times throughout the day to Covington and Newton County Fire Department personnel. The memorial readings will happen again, this year, beginning with a special “all tone alert” at 8:46 a.m., and an announcement that it is the time when the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower in 2001, followed by saying, “May we never forget.”
Other readings will occur at 9:03 a.m. when United Flight 175 struck the South Tower, 9:37 a.m. when American Airlines Flight 177 struck the Pentagon, 9:59 a.m. when the south tower collapsed, 10:07 a.m. when United Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 10:28 a.m. the north tower collapsed. Each will be followed by, “May we never forget.”