By Allie Robinson Gibson Bristol Herald Courier
MARION, Va. — You’ll be able to touch it, to reach out and grab a piece of history that made its way two years ago from New York City to Southwest Virginia.
The 4,000-pound piece of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center in the days and months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks will soon be installed in a permanent memorial outside the Marion Volunteer Fire Department.
The steel will be about 4-5 feet off the ground, which will make it accessible, said Ken Heath, who works with the town’s Fire Department and serves as Marion’s director of economic development.
“There will be a walkway to it, you can walk to it and touch it,” he said. “We felt that was important.”
Volunteer firefighters from the area traveled two years ago to New York City to get the piece of steel, which Heath said is the largest between Atlanta and Baltimore.
Since its arrival in the community, it has traveled to school groups and been a part of 9/11 ceremonies in the town. Now, it will have a permanent home alongside markers commemorating the fall of the trade center and the lives of fallen local firemen. A black granite reflection bench, donated by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4667, will be installed outside the firehouse as well.
The pieces will be dedicated during a ceremony September 11.
“I’m real proud of the Fire Department, that they pursued this,” said Marion Mayor David Helms. “I’m a patriotic person … and I’m proud of our town. We just can’t forget what those people have done for us.”
He said volunteers working after the tragedy, and those who continue to work for local fire and emergency medical services squads are important to keep a community going.
“I’m sure a lot of people in this area have people who lost their lives then and we still have people who put their lives on the line every time the truck rolls,” the mayor added.
Helms said 9/11 is one of those days that no one can forget — he remembers exactly where he was that fateful morning, eating breakfast with friends in nearby Glade Spring.
“We’ll remember where we were … and we need to pass it on to young people,” Helms said.
“Kids going into seventh grade don’t have a memory of this,” he said. “And if we let that fade away, if we don’t work every day to preserve what happened, we end up losing a piece of ourselves.”