This article is a part of a series called Smithtown Remembers: The Tenth Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks
St. James, NY (SmithtownRadio.com) – After months of preparation, the 7-ton section of steel from the World Trade Center’s North Tower has been firmly secured to its new Saint James home.
“This is just a small element of the Trade Center and look at the size of this steel,” says St. James 9/11 Memorial Organizer Tom Donohue as he admires the piece outside the Jefferson Ave. fire house.
Donohue and a small army of volunteers have been working to turn a 300-yard section of property adjacent to the St. James Fire Department substation into the new memorial.
“Even though this memorial is at the fire house, it’s dedicated to everyone who lost their lives,” explains Donohue.
Donohue, a volunteer fireman, works at John F. Kennedy airport and was supervising a runway construction project ten years ago. After the towers collapsed, Donohue and some of his engineering colleagues headed to Manhattan.
“I parked five blocks away and there was paper up to my knee,” recalls Donohue. He assisted with the recovery effort, working in and around the twisted steel for two months. “It looked like the gates of hell.”
Now the steel that sat smoldering in downtown Manhattan for months is being shipped out across the country ahead of the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Donohue’s efforts began two years ago when he filed with the Port Authority to receive a piece of steel for a community memorial. The piece of steel, which has been stored in Hanger 17 at JFK airport along with countless other pieces, was shipped out to the island earlier this month and set into place during a groundbreaking ceremony in July.
Boy Scout Troop 7 lined Lake Avenue with American flags for the processional, which Donohue says brought between 500 and 700 people out. Area fire departments used their tower ladders to hang more flags over the roadway as the steel, draped in a flag of its own, was escorted on a flatbed truck.
“We invited everyone here to place a stone in the ring around the memorial,” says Donohue.
The lifting and placing of the steel was practiced the week before says Donohue, who recalls getting a call from the crew just nights before the groundbreaking. “’Tommy, it went perfect,’” Donohue recalls being told on the phone. “’We stood it upright. It’s amazing. It gave me chills to look and see this stand there and to think it hasn’t stood like this in yen years.’”
“What’s special about this piece [of steel] is there is only two pieces like this recovered and preserved,” explains Donohue. The bowtie section piece is from the North Tower lobby.
“It wasn’t designed to be a cross to not slight any religion,” says Donohue, explaining why he chose the crisscrossing piece of steel. “It was unique. There were only two of them.”
Working evenings and weekends, Donohue hopes to finish the memorial before next month’s dedication, which will be held on the anniversary of the attacks regardless of the construction’s completion.
“Little by little people are coming forth but there’s still a lot of work to get this thing done,” says Donohue, who is concerned about manpower and funds. “We’re going to keep working at it until we get the money to do it.”
Local groups have been coming forward to assist. The local VFW donated the $2,000 flagpole and St. James Lumber donated wood for the construction. St. James A Bistro and St. James Beverage held a dinner fundraiser last month.
Anyone looking to donate time or money – or to learn more about the memorial – can call 631-584-5799.