I retired from the recycling industry in 1992, after 40 years. During that time, I traveled a lot on buying trips, attending meetings and conventions in Canada and this country. The many contacts I made eventually helped me to achieve my most satisfying project.
When I turned on my TV on 9/11, the first plane had already hit the first tower. I did not turn off the TV until I went to bed. From that day on, I watched the disaster unfold, day after day.
I decided Beachwood should have a 9/11 memorial. In the course of watching the wreckage being removed, I saw everything from huge ladder fire trucks, buses, and autos to huge steel girders being transported by truck to a very large New Jersey scrap yard, Hugo Neu, that I knew. I wrote the company asking for a heavy piece of steel for a memorial in our city. I hoped my letter would be forwarded to the proper authorities.
Thanks for Patricia Vanek of the mayor’s office, through her contacts and through her spending many hours cutting through red tape, the mayor’s office was notified that Beachwood qualified for the memorial. Again, through her contacts, Patricia arranged for Federal Express to transport it here. Later, we found out that this would be at no expense to our city.
At the City Council meeting on Jan. 21, 2003, Mayor Merle Gorden announced that Beachwood’s request would be fulfilled. On Feb. 11, 2003, I received a letter from the mayor: I was invited to the fire station for the piece of steel’s arrival and the Fire Honor Guard Ceremony in two days. My wife accompanied me, snapping photos of the city’s proud moment.
The truck backed up to the front of the station on Richmond Road. The door opened and a small truck backed into the building. The excitement mounted as the truck driver raised the rear door of his truck.
There was an orange piece of steel on a wooden pallet – the only freight in the entire truck. A towmotor removed the pallet, the Honor Guard, walking slowly, flanked both sides as it was moved into the building. Everyone present will always remember this solemn ceremony.
That afternoon, I mentioned this project to my artist friend and Beachwood resident Jacob Hennenberg. He insisted that I meet with him.
That night, when I was ready for bed, the phone rang. It was Jake. He told me to come over. He had already made a mock-up model of which I approved, and I presented it to the next City Council meeting, explaining our ideas.
I insisted the memorial must be located inside and away from the elements that could eventually discolor the beam’s vibrant “orange patina.” Because the steel had been recovered from deep in the layers of rubble at the site of the attack and subjected to tremendously hot temperatures, when it cooled, it retained this most unusual color. The color is now slowly fading, but for years to come, visitors can see this most unusual color for steel.
Jake said that it should be embedded in stone, at an angle, symbolizing the towers down. A flag, he said, must also be displayed behind it.
The final location for the memorial evoked much discussion. Since so many firemen lost their lives on that day, the firemen insisted on taking over construction, to finance it, and to place it in the lobby of Fire Station No. 1 on Richmond Road and Fairmount Boulevard.
I was sure a memorial would come through, so I immediately started collecting newspapers, magazines, postcards, books and “covers” – envelopes with the commemorative stamp issued. Recently, I was very lucky to buy 15 envelopes from around he world, addressed to a business at 1 World Trade Center, New York. Very, very rare! These will be on display in the station soon.
The Fire Station lobby is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. I hope in the future, it will be open on 9/11, regardless of the day of the week, and in the evening. Perhaps, even, color postcards could be made and sold for the benefit of the Beachwood Fire Department.