By Colleen Platt Barnegat-Manahawkin Patch
Standing in front of the Barnegat Township Municipal Building, Mayor Al Cirulli carefully looked over the pile of dirt and rubble in the building’s parking area.
“This is going to be a place where if people want to come and reflect, any time of the day or night,” Cirulli said. It may be difficult to envision today, but in just a few short weeks, Cirulli knows what will be standing there.
Working with officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and others in town, township officials have obtained a beam from the World Trade Center, which will serve as a memorial to 9/11. This is the second such memorial in the town. Another, donated last year, sits on the Barnegat Township High School football field, which is not easily accessible to people who have disabilities because of its location on the school’s campus. Both beams were brought to the town through the efforts of Charles Giles, a Barnegat resident and 9/11 responder.
Giles said the same controversial truck that transported a tower piece recovered from the wreckage of Ground Zero to the high school last year escorted the township truck that brought this piece to the township as well. The truck, and the men that drove it, Thomas J. Scalgione, 40, of Manahawkin and Mark Anthony Niemczyk, 66, of Tinton Falls were recently accused of promoting a bogus 9/11 victims’ charity by driving around in the pickup truck painted with the names of first responders who perished.
Cirulli said that he hopes that despite the fact that some of the people involved in bringing both pieces to Barnegat have been marred in controversy, that it will not negatively impact the memorial’s overall message and this particular beam’s importance.
According to Giles, this beam is unique in that it was still standing after the bombing in 1993. Giles said the most recent beam, which is being checked on every day until it is placed in front of the building, weighs 13,000 pounds. Pinelands Regional High School will be getting a memorial as well, he said.
Plans for the township’s memorial include a backdrop wall, which will feature lights and feature wording honoring responders of that day. Township officials are hoping to dedicate the memorial, which is being built mainly on volunteer labor and supplies, on September 11 of this year.
One of the people who intend to attend that dedication ceremony, Matt Lightbody, who served as a lieutenant in Barnegat Township’s fire department and lost a cousin on 9/11, said he would attend in his cousin’s memory, but he said he feels the ceremony will be somewhat tarnished due to the controversy surrounding how the beams got to Barnegat.
“The controversy surrounding how they got here does put a tarnish on it,” Lightbody said, “but I will still attend to honor my cousin and others’ memories.”
Cirulli said that he hopes that the controversy will not blemish all the hard work and spirit of volunteerism that is going in construction of the memorial.
“There were numerous first responders from Barnegat, so 9/11 had a particularly large impact on our community, and it is important to honor that,” Cirulli said.