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Sacred steel

World Trade Center joist comes to Brattleboro for 10th anniversary of 9/11

BRATTLEBORO—The piece of twisted, slightly rusted steel sat on a card table at the back of the Brattleboro Central Fire Station.

About four feet long and weighing about 170 pounds, there was nothing remarkable about it at first glance.

Then you notice the numbers C-149 and NT-176 on the steel, the first clue that this is not just any piece of scrap metal.

It is a piece of history.

The piece of steel was once a floor joist truss that once sat somewhere between the 94th and 98th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City — the spot where at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, a hijacked American Airlines Boeing 767 slammed into the tower.

The jetliner, which had taken off from Boston’s Logan International Airport bound for Los Angeles carrying 92 passengers and crew and an estimated 10,000 gallons of fuel, hit the building and exploded in a fireball of orange flame.

After burning for 102 minutes, Tower One collapsed, about 30 minutes after Tower Two met a similar fate after it was also struck by a jetliner.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, including 343 New York City firefighters.

As the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, the Brattleboro Fire Department and the Red Knights International Firefighters Motorcycle Club are remembering the tremendous sacrifice of their fellow firefighters by displaying this piece from the World Trade Center over the next few weeks in Brattleboro.

Afterwards, this artifact will be on permanent display in Boylston, Mass., as part of the Red Knights memorial to firefighters who died in the line of duty.

Long journey

Former Brattleboro Fire Chief David Emery is president of the Red Knights, a motorcycle club of firefighters that has more than 10,000 members worldwide. He said it took more than two years for the club to secure the piece of steel from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the original owners of the World Trade Center.

“We’re the only motorcycle club in the world to get one of these World Trade Center artifacts,” Emery said.

The Port Authority has been distributing about 1,200 pieces recovered steel from the World Trade Center for Sept. 11 memorials around the country. The painted numbers on the joist, C-149 and NT-176, are identification numbers used by the Federal Building and Fire Safety Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to inventory the artifacts, Emery said.

Last week, Emery and other club members escorted the joist from a holding area at New York’s Kennedy International Airport to Brattleboro. He said the steel still has an energy to it that one can feel.

“You can feel the importance of what it means,” Emery said. “This is my hometown, and it’s important for the people here to see what little remains of the World Trade Center.”

Current Brattleboro Fire Chief Michael Bucossi said his department was “humbled and honored to be able to have it here. We’re really proud to be able to bring this piece of national history to Brattleboro. We really hope people come out to see it.”

It will be on display at the Brattleboro Central Fire Station from Aug. 29 until Sept. 6, when it will be moved to the Brooks Memorial Library to be part of a exhibit there along with books and other items connected to the attacks.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, it will be transported to the American Legion Post 5 on Linden Street for a memorial service honoring firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel that were killed in the line of duty at the World Trade Center.

The joist will then be on display again at Central Station until Sept. 16, when it be put into storage until it can be installed at the Red Knights memorial in the spring.

Painful memories

After a decade, firefighters across the nation still feel the pain and sorrow of losing so many of their comrades in one day. Brattleboro’s fire englnes still sport memorial stickers for the fallen New York firefighters, and the famed picture of the three firefighters raising an American flag over the debris of the World Trade Center hangs in Central Station.

Emery remembers going to the memorial service for the “Worcester 6” in December 1999, when six firefighters were killed battling a fire in an abandoned warehouse in Worcester, Mass. More than 10,000 fire personnel from all over New England, as well as President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator John Kerry, all jammed into the Worcester Centrum to pay tribute.

“That was one of the saddest days of my career,” said Emery. “I didn’t think there could be a worse day than that. Until Sept. 11.”

Emery said he’s been to the site where the Twin Towers once stood several times over the past decade, and none of those trips have been easy for him.

Bucossi was a fire captain on Sept. 11, 2001. He was at Central Station when the first plane crashed into Tower One.

“I thought it was pure accident, until I saw the second plane come into view,” he said. “Then I felt it in the pit of my stomach and I knew it wasn’t just an accident.”

Bucossi said he was scheduled to perform an inspection at someone’s home that morning. He kept the appointment, and he remembers that the people at the residence asked if he would like to sit with them and watch the television coverage of the unfolding tragedy in New York.

“I’ll never forget the feeling of the kindness they showed to me, even during the terror and destruction that was going on,” Bucossi said.

“That was a day we’ll never forget,” said Emery.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #115 (Wednesday, August 24, 2011).

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