News: Steel Beam from World Trade Center Brought to Freeport
Story by Spc. Angela Parady
FREEPORT, Maine -- Two fire trucks lined Main Street in Freeport, their ladders extended across the road, an American Flag suspended between them. People stood crowding the side of the road, children waving flags, parents carrying children, all anxiously awaiting the arrival. Finally, one person spots the lone motorcycle in the distance, leading a large convoy to the Freeport Public Safety Building.
Escorted by state and town policemen, firemen, motorcycle riders including the Patriot Riders, and carried on a flatbed truck, lay a piece of steel from the World Trade Center. The Maine Army National Guard carried the 23 and ½ feet long, 53,000 pound steel beam on a military flatbed truck, from the J.F.K hanger where the remaining pieces from Ground Zero have been stored in New York, back to Freeport.
Many people spoke at Saturday’s ceremony, all highlighting the importance of remembering and honoring those who were lost on that tragic morning, and remembering their own level of commitment to doing something, anything to stand up and help others.
U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe underscored the importance of this event, three years in the making and the persistence and dedication of the Freeport Flag Ladies. “The state of Maine was honored with this beam to remind people to never forget.” Being able to survive the hurdles and obstacles to get the piece safely here, she said was esteemed with the state's “strength and resolve to honor the victims of that catastrophic day on September 11, 2001.”
“As you know there are finite pieces of steel that are left from the World Trade Center and the twin towers, and the number of requests from around America and the world far outnumbers what is available,” said Snowe. “That we are so honored here, today to be able to proudly display this patriotic beam that is so infused with feeling that it is indescribable.”
Most importantly, for those who are unable to make the trip to New York to see Ground Zero in person, the presence of the memorial in Freeport, which will be revealed during a later ceremony to be held in the fall, enables people to see and touch a piece of history, the steel so strong that it is still enduring from the day that forever changed all of our lives.
Spc. Jason L. Breton, of Sabbatus, is one of the Maine Army National Guard soldiers who was honored to make the journey from Maine to New York and back to pick up the beam. For Breton, a mechanic with the 262nd Engineering Company from Westbrook, 9/11 cemented his future with the Maine Army National Guard. Then 21 years old, he was nearing the end of his enlistment when the planes crashed into the towers. That day, he made the decision to continue serving his country and protecting the freedoms that Americans enjoy. He knew then that his future would be to continue to serve his state and his country.
Breton said that his favorite part of the trip to New York was the journey back, with the steel beam securely fasted to the back of the truck and “all the people honking and waving.” To him, it was humbling to be able to be a part of that ceremony and to also be requested for the job.
Breton said that Saturday’s ceremony was full of emotions, especially feelings of pride and humility.
"I just wish everyone could be part of it, this is awesome,” he said about the ceremony.
John T. Jenkins of Lewiston-Auburn, former state Senator and mayor of Lewiston-Auburn served as the master of ceremonies and also spoke eloquently of the honor it is to be able to have a piece of this beam here.
“It means that we will never forget and it sends a message to the rest of this country, and the world, that we’ve gone beyond just not forgetting, but we honor everyone who has stepped up to the plate, in uniform or out of uniform,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins continued that “this war on terror went from the battlefront to our front yard. We are in the mix of it, and every American has a responsibility to step up to it.”
But for Mainers, Saturday marked a chance from which they could make a change. They would “take something that was done out of ill will, where there are several who thought they could knock out a nation by knocking down two buildings, but when the dust settles, we as a nation are still standing, and make something great out of it,” said Jenkins.
Elaine D. Greene, of Freeport, and one of the Freeport Flag Ladies said that after 9/11 she felt compelled to do something. First she raised a flag on Main St to honor the fallen victims of the 9/11 attacks, then she stood to support the troops in Afghanistan and now she stands in continued support of our efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She stands no matter what the weather, because the soldiers she is standing for don’t have any reprieve from weather.
After 9/11 Greene realized she was one of those Americans that had taken things for granted and she vowed to do anything she could for those who protected her freedoms. For Greene, the events on 9/11 changed how she viewed the world, and marked how diligently Americans need to stand up and be thankful for what they are able to enjoy.
Retired Navy corpsman Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Guy Duke brought to the ceremony a flag that he has kept from a security detail he was assigned to in New York City shortly after the attacks. Found stuffed in the wall, the woman working there gave it to him before everything was placed into a storage facility. The flag, signed and inscribed with words of strength and compassion has followed Duke in his travels from his hometown of Durham, Maine to places as far as Japan and Europe. He brought it with him today, honored to be able to share the stories and the honor the memories it, like the beam keep alive.
“Feels like an honor, and to see this today is incredible. The weight of the steel is incredible,” said Duke. “I was glad to be able to bring it out and share it with everyone.”
Everyone in attendance at Saturday’s ceremony had a reason to be there, and with the closeness of Osama Bin Laden’s death and the concurrence of Armed Forces day, many were honored to be able to share their experiences with others from similar backgrounds and to take solace in knowing that they are not alone in their journey. Everywhere in Maine, people are taking a stand to help protect our freedoms and support troops everywhere, and most importantly to never forget.