A piece of history

A small piece of steel from one of the collapsed World Trade Center buildings has made its way to Ashland and will be unveiled tomorrow in a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The 65-pound, foot-long section of I-beam will go on display in the lobby of Ashland Fire & Rescue's Fire Station 1, 455 Siskiyou Blvd., after the department conducts a short ceremony at 6:45 a.m., in remembrance of nearly 2,800 people and 343 firefighters who died in the attacks.

"It's an honor to have a piece with such historic, significant representation in our city," said Ashland Fire & Rescue Chief John Karns. "We hope that it provides an opportunity for reflection for those who visit."

Ashland Fire & Rescue Captain David Shepherd applied to receive the artifact over two years ago from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has given out 1,300 pieces of the destroyed buildings since then.

Ashland Fire & Rescue did not have to pay the port authority for the piece of steel, which arrived in late May, except for about $100 to have it shipped across the country, Shepherd said.

"We thought it would be nice to have, just as something that people could take a look at, touch, and have to remember what happened that day," Shepherd said. "That was one of the largest firefighter losses, and civilian losses in the history of the U.S. This will serve as a good memorial and reminder for the next generations coming."

The piece of steel, identified on its side as piece I0044,D,I-94D, was initially recovered by the port authority and later used in an investigation of the collapse by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. A few of the larger pieces from the 13,000-linear-foot stockpile were identified well enough to determine what building, and even what floor they were from. It is unknown which building Ashland's piece once helped to support, said Margueritte Hickman, Ashland Fire & Rescue fire marshal.

The Grants Pass Fire Department obtained a 700-pound piece of steel from the wreckage, after two of its local firefighters flew to New York and drove the beam back across the country.

Many fire departments throughout the nation paid thousands of dollars to have multi-ton pieces of the buildings shipped to them from Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the port authority had the steel stored for most of a decade.

Now, according to the port authority, the 1,300 pieces of steel are scattered across nearly all 50 states and seven foreign countries.

Every institution that received an artifact was required to sign a legal contract agreeing not to transfer the steel to any third parties, an effort to help ensure the artifacts won't end up being sold. Institutions also were required to agree not charge for the viewing of pieces.

"It's strictly a memorial piece, and it's great to have it here," said Shepherd. "If anybody's interested in seeing or touching a piece of the World Trade Center we would encourage them to come down for the ceremony, or drop by the station sometime."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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