Bringing Home a Piece of History

Four Poudre Fire Authority Firefighters Return to New York City to Retrieve a Steel Beam from the World Trade Center

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, a team of disaster responders from Colorado–several of whom were from Poudre Fire Authority (PFA)–rushed to New York to aid in the recovery and cleanup efforts at Ground Zero.

Last October, four of those PFA firefighters–Jim Durkin, Bryan Hanson, Len Lindholm, and Jim Salisbury–travelled back to New York to take possession of a 5-foot long, 3,500-pound steel beam that was recovered from the wreckage.

cdawfwmhis3mobt9The beam, one of the last pieces of wreckage to be donated to a rescue agency, was commended to the group during a ceremony alongside representatives from New York City-area emergency crews. The firefighters then embarked upon a 1,700-mile cross-country journey back to Colorado with the beam in tow.

Motorcyclists from the Patriot Guard, a national organization of motorcycle enthusiasts, joined more than 100 emergency services agencies to help escort the firefighters and the beam along their way, and dozens of ceremonies took place all across the country as the beam passed through.

Throngs of media outlets descended on small town gatherings and big city rallies alike to cover the beam’s journey. Starting their travels bright and early each day, the four firefighters also posted online updates from their trip every 30 minutes.1

Updates on how the trip unfolded along with pictures from the journey are posted at www.poudre-fire.org/what-s-new/wtc-artifact-journey. There’s also a map detailing their exact travel route, and posts and photos from social media can be found by searching #PoudreFireWTCBeam.

The group arrived back in Fort Collins on October 24 where a ceremony was held at PFA’s Station 4 to welcome the firefighters back and to pay respects to those who lost their lives in the attack and subsequent cleanup and recovery efforts.

Senior Reporter Kevin Duggan wrote about the four PFA firefighters in a feature several years ago, writing “Even 10 years later, feelings stirred by working at Ground Zero seemed raw. Team members described the mind-blowing devastation and nine-story high piles of rubble they saw. They recalled the exhaustion and determination of FDNY firefighters working at the site.”2

The healing process in overcoming the emotional scars that remain from their experience in 2001 was helped along by the outpouring of love and support the quartet received along their journey home last fall.zhdhaj1x2mkdfgvi

“Every time we stopped, we were swarmed by hundreds of people that wanted to touch it,” Bryan Hanson told the crowd at the ceremony. “They wanted to thank us. They hugged us… All the love they shared with us on the way back was extremely overwhelming.”

“An amazing amount of work, collaboration, and cooperation went into bringing this tremendously important piece of American history to Colorado,” said PFA Captain of Public Affairs and Education Patrick Love. “The beam took on an incredible aura as it traveled across the country, and we received literally hundreds of requests for our transport team to make stops in towns along the route.”

The beam may not look like much by itself, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a powerful symbol.

“Yes, it’s just a hunk of metal. But it’s an artifact that carries far more weight than its physical statistics. It will serve as a reminder to never forget that day and those who lost their lives,” wrote Duggan.2

Unfortunately, the beam is not available for public viewing at its current location. For now, it will remain at the station until a permanent memorial can be built, which PFA Chief Tom DeMint hopes to have completed in time for the 15th anniversary of the attacks in September 2016.

The beam acquisition was made possible by the State of New York’s Port Authority and the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund (TFFF), a non-profit named in honor of a firefighter who was killed when the WTC collapsed. Of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attack, 343 were firefighters.

The TFFF, which has a Colorado chapter, was founded to assist firefighters and families across the nation with financial, educational and medical support, and provide equipment donations for fire departments in need. For additional information or to donate, go to terryfund.org.

1 http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2015/10/15/beam-world-trade-center-coming-fort-collins/73994188/

2 http://www.coloradoan.com/story/news/2015/10/22/fort-collins-artifact/74417378/

3 http://www.poudre-fire.org/what-s-new/wtc-artifact-journey/wtc-artifact-journey-oct-22

4 http://patch.com/illinois/newlenox/world-trade-center-beam-be-carried-along-i-80-friday

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