By Michael Kane Boylston Banner
Fire Chief Joseph Flangan (foreground) was among the nearly 400 people who came from across the country Saturday for the dedication of a piece of the World Trade Center at the Red Knights Motorcycle Club memorial in Boylston. In a somber and often emotional ceremony, the piece of the World Trade Center brought to town by the Red Knights Motorcycle Club last year was officially dedicated as a memorial site Saturday, June 16.
The remnants of the steel beam were once part of the floor support in Tower One, from the impact area between floors 95 and 98. A condition of granting of the metal, still considered evidence in a crime, is that it cannot be altered in any way. As it stands, the case number assigned to it as part of the investigation of the September 2001 attacks on New York are still visible.
“This piece of steel has been entrusted – entrusted – to the Red Knights,” co-founding member and Boylston resident David Hamilton said. “We do not own it. it has been given to us for our safekeeping.” The Red Knights formed in 1982 through informal meetings of firefighters and motorcycle enthusiasts in Boylston, Westboro and Northboro, according to co-founder Don Parker, former Boylston fire chief and Highway Department superintendent. At the time, there was no recognized firefighters’ motorcycle club.
The club is now international, and includes tens of thousands of members.
Soon after it formed, so did the New York City Fire Riders. As part of a natural expansion of two northeast clubs, the two groups soon identified each other as joint members. And that is the connection that brought the steel beam to Boylston.
Soon after the Red Knights Memorial was installed in Boylston in 2007, work began on getting a piece of Twin Towers to recognize the New York brethren, Parker said last year, when the steel beam was first brought to Boylston. It was work that took many people thousands of hours to bring to town, according to Club International President David Emery. The Red Knights and Fire Riders are now the only motorcycle club to be awarded a piece of the towers, Emery said.
The beam now has significance for Americans that it never had, he noted, discussing the beam’s history, from iron ore that had no life, to cold steel on which millions of feet traversed. Then on September 11, 2001, “it came crashing down.”
Emery wondered aloud about his need to touch the beam. It is a feeling, once shared, that he said many others had too.
“I don’t know what it (was like) when it came crashing down in that pile of twisted metal,” Emery said. “But now, when I touch it, I can feel the souls. I can feel the pain and I pray to God it never happens again.”
Also part of the ceremony was Donald Chrisville, a retired New York firefighter and founding member of the New York City Fire Riders. Chrisville, who had a scheduled day off, responded to the 9-11 call, as did many others. Commandeering a passenger bus, he headed into Manhattan along with three busloads of firefighters, as everyone else was trying to escape.Ultimately, 343 firefighters and EMTs perished trying to clear the towers, as did 23 police officers and 37 Port Authority officers.
Months later, searchers found the 14th floor door button two stories below grade in a substation, he noted. He never found an intact piece of equipment or furniture. Over 1,600 bodies [sic] remain unidentified to this day.
He told of the attempts by the New York city government to turn the search and recovery mission to a clean-up. At that time, the steel workers and firefighters stood together against the attempt, calling the full power of the national firefighters union to bear.
“The steel workers, the welders and the heavy equipment operators just cheered (when it was announced at the site) because they were behind us 100 percent,” he said. “This wasn’t a clean-up. This was a memorial.
“It was a sad day as Americans. A tough day for New Yorkers and a horrible day for the New York City Fire Department. But, as true professionals, we carry on.” he said. “I lost five very good friends that day …,” he said. “I knew their kids. I was uncle Don to their families. I was hoping to be a rescuer to at least one of them, to bring at least one of their bodies home. Four were found the first month, and one has never been found.”
Boylston Fire Chief Joseph Flanagan asked people to “never forget,” neither the thousands who died on September 11, nor the more than 7,000 soldiers who have died since then.“Ten years after, we should remember the 7,286 soldiers who have died, and the thousands more who have been injured,” Flanagan said. “This should serve as a reminder to us that life is fleeting.“We need to honor their service, their dedication to duty … and their dedication to protecting lives and property. Never forget.”