By Dawn Wivell Journal Register
Few of us will ever forget where we were on September 11, 2001. We watched in horror as first one, and then the other twin tower fell, killing thousands of people. Our lives were changed forever.
Phil Ehrlich is a part-time resident of Exeter Township and a firefighter for the Exeter Township Volunteer Fire Department, but as a sculpture [sic] and designer, he spends the majority of his time in New York City. He was in NYC on September 11, 2001, and his wife was just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center on that tragic day. She witnessed the entire event.
Like many, Ehrlich was deeply affected by the events of that day. He tried to volunteer his expertise as a welder at “the pile,” but they were only looking for certified welders. That’s when he decided to become a volunteer firefighter.
Ehrlich has been with the ETVFD for six years now.
When he heard that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the September 11 Families’ Association were awarding pieces of the structural steel from the World Trade Center to different organizations, he talked to ETVFD fire chief Robert Jordan, about applying for a piece of the steel. With Jordan’s approval, Ehrlich completed the application, explaining why the ETVFD wanted the artifact and what they would do with it.
In May 2011, the ETVD was awarded three pieces of steel – one large piece and two smaller pieces. Ehrlich is pretty sure it’s the only fire company in Berks County awarded the honor. Former Deputy Chief, Steve Kruscewski led the team to pick up the steel and take it around to events using an Exeter Supply Co. truck.
The department felt that it was important to dedicate one of the pieces in 2011 – the tenth anniversary of the tragedy, so they pulled together. Deputy Chief Eric Lessig made a steel pedestal outside of the Reiffton Firehouse. Former Chief Greg Rhein welded the steel to the pedestal. Assistant Engineer Billy Rohrbach helped prepare the site and coordinate the construction. And Ehrlich designed a bronze plaque “memorializing this tragic event.”
The plaque honors the 343 firefighters and officers of the FDNY, the 104 police officers [sic], the 55 public employees, and 2,475 civilian victims of the attacks of that day, “and all victims of terrorist attacks against the United States of America.” It also honors “all those who served in any way on 9-11 and during its aftermath” and “those serving our country and its communities now, in the past, and in the future as firefighters, police emergency medical personnel, and members of all the military branches of the United States of America.”
Ehrlich said, “It [obtaining the steel and building the memorial] has been an effort by many ETVFD volunteers.”
And now the department is enhancing the memorial, so that it can be re-dedicated this Memorial Day. The plan, conceived by Lieutenant Brian Rhein, includes engraved paving bricks, a brick pedestal, and lighting.
The ETVFD is inviting community members to join them in honoring the victims and heroes of this tragic event by purchasing engraved bricks that will form the paving of the memorial area. Individuals can have their family names and/or dedication statements engraved in the bricks. Each brick costs $30.
All bricks that were completed by May 18 will be included in a rededication ceremony on Memorial Day, May 28, 2012. Additional engraved bricks will be added later until the paving is complete, with approximately 1,000 bricks (donated by Glen-Gery Brick).
The department is currently planning a memorial for the second smaller piece of steel to be placed in front of the Stonersville Fire Station and discussing options for the large piece of steel. For information, go to exetertwpfire25.com.