NEWBURYPORT — A phalanx of police cruisers and fire engines slowly made its way into the city Thursday afternoon — escorting an 80-pound portion of the World Trade Center destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — to Fire Department headquarters on Greenleaf Street.
The portion of steel, split into two perpendicular slabs representing the twin towers, will be at the fire station in perpetuity so that generations will never forget what transpired that day almost 20 years ago, according to Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire.
“I think it’s fantastic, we’re honored to have it here,” LeClaire said.
More than 2,600 people were killed, including hundreds of first responders, when the two World Trade Center towers were struck by two hijacked passenger jets. Nearly 400 other people were killed when another hijacked plane was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Passengers aboard a fourth plane stormed hijackers before it crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The delivery of World Trade Center steel was made possible by Newburyport firefighter Michael Kent, who worked with the Tunnel to Tower Foundation, John Ponte of the Siller Foundation and New York Fire Department dispatcher Warren Fuchs. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation honors the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller, who was one of 343 FDNY firefighters who gave his life to save others that day.
Kent said the piece of the World Trade Center will become part of a larger memorial at the Newburyport Fire Department now being developed.
It took roughly two years for the piece to make it from New York City to Newburyport.
On Thursday morning, Kent picked it up in Oxford, Maine, where workers had just finished building a house for a victim of the attacks. From Maine, the piece was driven down Interstate 95, where it was met by a New Hampshire State Police escort at the border.
Massachusetts State Police vehicles resumed the escort once it crossed into Salisbury. From there, it was met by local firefighters, including Kent and LeClaire.
Residents came to watch the procession and take photos of the piece after it was placed on top of a fire engine bumper. Local photographer Bob Watts said it brought a tear to his eye when he heard the steel was coming to Newburyport.
Asked how he felt about part of the World Trade Center being in Newburyport, Kent called it emotional.
“When you think about the buildings coming down,” Kent said.