9/11 beams unveiled early

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2011

By Shelley Smith
SALISBURY — On a day when the nation and most of the world were abuzz following the death of Osama bin Laden, the lives lost during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were also remembered, and honored here in Salisbury.
The Salisbury Fire Department revealed two 8-foot steel beams from the World Trade Center — “artifacts,” Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell called them — that will become permanent fixtures in Rowan County: One as part of the Firefighters Memorial on South Main Street, and the other beam will be incorporated at the entrance to the future firefighter training facility at Rowan Cabarrus Community College.
The beams, weathered and rust-coated, were displayed Monday, resting on wooden pallets.
“These artifacts serve as a reminder of the destruction and senseless loss of life that Osama bin Laden directed,” Parnell said. “These two pieces of steel were the framework, the very fabric of the World Trade Center.”
Parnell said the department decided to reveal the beams to the media early because of the requests, and, “in light of yesterday’s fearless and gallant work of the United States Military, its special forces and the president of the United States to locate and capture the world’s most wanted terrorist.”
“We appreciate every single military service member and their actions to keep our country free and safe,” Parnell said.
Tammy File, a senior office assistant for the fire department, has been working since 2009 to obtain pieces of the World Trade Center, and the beams arrived in Salisbury at 2 a.m. April 22.
Salisbury firefighters are refurbishing a surplus trailer to house the beams for the public to see until they are permanently installed.
One beam will be worked into the Salisbury-Rowan Firefighters Memorial at 1400 S. Main St. The other will become part of a memorial site at the entrance to the Firefighters Training Facility at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
Parnell, Capt. Mark Thompson and firefighter Chet Hedrick drove to John F. Kennedy International Airport April 20 to pick up the steel.
Parnell said an entire hangar — about three to four football fields wide and nine football fields long — was filled with remnants of the twin towers.
“We saw elevator motors that were as big as cars that were part of the World Trade Center,” he said. “We saw steel that was just twisted like toothpicks. Pieces that weren’t available to people in the nation.
“The sites we saw there were tremendous. We weren’t able to photograph, but the sheer impact of the falling building and all the other components was amazing.”
Parnell said more than 10,000 communities have requested and will receive artifacts.
The two now in Salisbury, Parnell assumed, were vertical upright pieces, reinforced on one plate, Parnell said.
“So we assume to provide strength they were doubled,” he said.
The fire department could not pick and choose what pieces they received, and they also were not given information on which parts of the World Trade Center the pieces came from.
The ownership of the steel was transferred from the New Jersey and New York Port Authority to the city of Salisbury.
“We felt honored to be able to bring it back,” Parnell said.
Officials share thoughts
• Rory Collins, Salisbury Chief of Police: “I am pleased and feel honored to have the pieces of the fabric of the World Trade Center… I, too, share the comfort that comes along with the activities that we learned about (Sunday) night.
“I think we have to continue to be cautious as we think about the fact that even though he was the mastermind supposedly behind the activities that took place Sept. 11, that doesn’t necessarily mean that terrorism will come to an end for our country.”
• Frank Thomason, Director of Emergency Services for Rowan County:  “It’s a fitting reminder for our community to be able to have this memorial.”
• Doug Stevens, Captain at the Salisbury Fire Department: “I think it was something necessary for this country to do. We finally got justice that we deserved.
“When I say we, I mean all the people that suffered the losses as well as the rest of the country. I believe it makes our country a little bit more safer.
“I stayed up last night to listen to the president. I was pleased, I was happy. I have a son in the military and four brothers that served in the military. I have a high respect for our military people.”
• Bob Parnell, Chief of the Salisbury Fire Department: “I was watching the Mets game, and they were talking about how the fans in Philadelphia started chanting, ‘U.S.A., U.S.A.,’ and the announcers didn’t immediately know, and they said, ‘Oh, on our social media accounts, we see that bin Laden’s been killed,’ and that’s when I changed it over to the news channel.
“I don’t personally celebrate death, but it sure did feel like a relief that one of the kingpins of terrorism in our nation was caught, captured and dealt with.”