Reporting Bill Hudson
COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) — At a machine shop in Ramsey, powerful jets of pressurized water do the seemingly impossible. They slice through thick steel much like a knife goes through butter.
Yet there’s a certain sacredness to the symbols, letters and numbers that Dave Gilberto is cutting out to help commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“I never thought I’d be doing something like this 10 years after the fact,” Gilberto said.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed after terrorists flew four hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa.
To memorialize the sacrifices of the 343 New York City firefighters who died while responding to the World Trade Towers, firefighters in Coon Rapids wanted a piece of the pain. They wanted a way to create a permanent reminder of the day we all wept.
Inside Coon Rapids Fire Station number one, Chief John Piper walked up to an object on the floor and pointed out that it’s a piece of steel from the Twin Towers.
Chief Piper requested and received from the New York Port Authority a 122-pound chunk of I-beam from one of the Twin Towers. It’s charred and twisted out of shape, simple yet so powerful.
“I think this piece of steel says it all, a piece that heavy, bent the way it is really tells a lot of what happened that terrible day,” Piper said.
The idea inspired his firefighters to take the steel and design something around it, something to memorialize the close relationships that all firefighters share.
“We’re emulating the Twin Towers here, they’re pieces of steel 6 feet tall,” said Firefighter Chuck Fleury as he sits pointing to a drawing on a computer screen.
Fleury and his fellow firefighters have volunteered their time, from the design of the memorial to the concrete work required to hold up the steel. Mounted atop the base will be twin beams etched with the words “Never Forget,” and the date, “9-11-2001.” In front of the steel towers will be the chunk of twisted I-beam acquired from the ground zero.
“You’ll be able to come see that steel and people won’t say anything — they’ll just stare at it,” said Fleury.
The firefighters union and the Coon Rapids Arts Commission will share the cost of all materials. The Minnesota Waterjet Company has donated the metal cutting.
“Everybody here is honored to help on the project and have something that we’re able to work on that’s going to outlive us,” said Doug Leaser, president of the Minnesota Waterjet Company.
The city of Coon Rapids will hold a 9/11 memorial service Sunday beginning at 2 p.m. at Coon Rapids High School. Following the ceremony there will be a solemn parade from the school to Fire Station No. 1, where the monument will be official unveiled and dedicated.