Like all of us, the firefighters of the were stricken as they watched tragedy unfold on Sept. 11, 2001.
Chief Michelle Gibson said her company deeply felt the loss of both the civilians and firefighters who perished that day. One group they mourned because they are the ones who all firefighters dedicate their lives trying to protect. The other, because they are family.
So it was a powerful moment when Gibson got the call this week that Tri-State would be receiving an 8-foot steel I-beam from the World Trade Center wreckage.
“We wanted to bring it close to here so people can come and reflect and always remember,” she said. “Even if you didn’t know anyone in the World Trade Center, we’re still Americans, and everyone felt that.”
About two years ago, Tri-State trustee Michael Orrico alerted Gibson that fire stations could apply to receive a WTC beam. Tri-State filled out the paperwork, maneuvered through the legal channels associated with shepherding such a precious cargo, and waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally, the call came.
Gibson and a small band of Tri-State firefighters are scheduled to fly to New York City on June 20 to pick up the beam, which they will drive halfway across the country to Darien. They plan to arrive home June 23.
It will be a long journey through the mountains of Pennsylvania, the foothills of Ohio and the cornfields of Indiana.
The firefighters, however, will have good company along the way. Dave Skinner, a Warrior Watch organizer, is coordinating members of the veterans’ group to escort Tri-State through each state. State police between New York and Illinois also will be part of the caravan, Gibson said.
“You have to be respectful of this piece,” Gibson said. “Everyone has to treat it with the respect it deserves.”
One of the rules of receiving WTC steel is that it must be displayed somewhere available for public viewing, she said.
Although there will be a small public ceremony when the beam arrives June 23 (time to be announced), Gibson said Tri-State plans on holding a larger event on Sept. 11 to mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
Throughout the summer, a committee will brainstorm and develop a fitting way to display the beam in front of Station Two, at 419 Plainfield Rd. in Darien.
Committee member and EMS coordinator Shelly Carbone said she thinks Tri-State’s firefighters are proud the beam is coming to one of their stations.
“It may bring closure for people who haven’t had the opportunity to visit Ground Zero,” she said.
Although the attacks happened far from Darien, Gibson says she knows of locals who lost loved ones that day.
At the Starbucks where Gibson gets her daily coffee, she said one of baristas told her she lost her brother—a firefighter—on 9/11.
“People [like her] can come and reflect and always remember,” Gibson said.