By Chris Flood Delaware State News
DOVER — Building a 9/11 memorial at Dover Air Force Base has taken longer than members of its fire department have wanted, but it finally will be unveiled on September 11.
“It’s becoming emotional for us,” said Rodney Coleman, Dover Air Force Base Fire & Emergency Services Station 58 deputy fire chief, speaking Thursday about a memorial that will honor the nearly 3,000 people killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. “We’re glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The day of the ceremony will mark exactly four years since the process started, as the department’s original request letter to officials with the World Trade Center steel program was written on September 11, 2009.The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates the World Trade Center steel program. They select portions of the steel recovered from the World Trade Center and donate it to cities, towns, firehouses and museums around the U.S. and the world who request it for use in 9/11 memorial sites.
The fire department received the two beams on Aug. 10, 2010.
Eagle Firefighters Association president Aaron Weisenberger, a member of Station 58 for 13 years, said other fire departments in Delaware display smaller pieces, but this will be the largest and the only one shown outdoors.
Mr. Weisenberger remembers the feeling of driving down the road with the pieces of steel tied to a trailer with an American flag draped across.
“People knew what the pieces of steel were,” he said.
The pieces have been sitting on the floor of the fire department’s main entrance under a posted American flag since they arrived. During tours they are always a big talking point, said Mr. Weisenberger.
Since receiving the steel, members of the fire department have been “aggressively fundraising” and working through the paperwork process.
Mr. Coleman said the fire department raised $22,000 for the memorial, but estimated the cost at more then $30,000 when taking into account donated materials and services. He credited a number of companies, including a couple locally — Pippin Funeral Home of Wyoming and Kriss Contracting Inc. of Hartly, for making the memorial happen.
Mr. Coleman estimates the beams weigh 600 pounds apiece. Records show they were used as horizontal support beams on the 81st floor of Tower One.
The memorial will find a home at the base’s Air Mobility Command Museum.
“We think the museum will be a perfect place,” said Michael Leister, AMC director. “It’s certainly time we have one. We’re happy to be able to provide a place for the memorial to be built.”
Beginning with the pathway of brick pavers leading to a concrete pad in the shape of a pentagon, the memorial has been designed to represent all the locations that were attacked. The two pieces of steel represent New York, and a large rock from the Shanksville, Pa., site is being picked up next week to be incorporated.
When completed, the memorial will have two benches made of black onyx on either side of the walkway; two memorials made of black onyx — one to commemorate the event and one to explain what visitors are looking at — on the back side of the concrete pad; and in then middle, at ground level, each attached to 3,000 pound granite stones, in a v-shape pointing towards New York City will be the pieces of steel.
“It’ll look like a compass, with its heading pointing towards New York City,” said Mr. Coleman.
That’s why, despite the long wait, the fire department never lost site of the goal.
“We want to do this the right way. We could’ve just thrown them outside, but it wouldn’t be paying them the proper amount of respect,” said Mr. Weisenberger.
A small groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial will take place next Thursday and public dedication will be on September 11 at 10 a.m. at the AMC Museum.