By DAVID PEPIN
In the days following the collapse of the World Trade Center, East Greenwich Fire District personnel wanted to join the rescue, cleanup and recovery effort at Ground Zero.
They never made it to New York City, but Ground Zero has recently come to them.
A three-foot, 100-pound chunk of I-beam believed to have come from one of the Twin Towers now sits in Chief Peter F. Henrikson’s office.
Henrikson is hoping to use the brown slab, with some orange corrosion on it, as part of a memorial in front of Station 1 on Main Street. He plans to incorporate the memorial, which may also include a fountain, into some upcoming improvements to the ramp/sidewalk apron in front of the station.
“If we can incorporate it into the work on the ramp, I’d love to do it. The fountain and landscaping would be a small expense, and for the labor, I could get (district firefighters) to do it,” he said.
The piece has been authenticated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has kept custody of much of the debris removed from the site. While there is a marking of “72-A” on the piece, Henrikson said authority officials are unsure if it means it came from a 72nd-floor beam on one of the towers.
Henrikson said the department was contacted by the Port Authority, along with other firefighting and public safety agencies, two years ago to determine if they were interested in obtaining any Ground Zero artifacts.
“We had to sign multiple forms and agree it would be put on public display. We’re not allowed to sell it or use it as a fundraising tactic,” he said.
The piece was delivered to the department four weeks ago, he added.
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack, local firefighters were hoping to join thousands of their brethren assisting the work at Ground Zero, but were told by authorities they weren’t needed.
“We had people interested in going, but they could only take personnel that had specialized skills or equipment. Plus, the city didn’t have the logistics to handle all the people who wanted to come,” said Henrikson.
Instead, district personnel staged a Fill the Boot campaign on Main Street to benefit rescue and relief efforts, and raised $30,000 in one weekend.