Exclusive: World Trade Center Debris Finds New Home In King Of Prussia
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa.(CBS) — When the Twin Towers succumbed to their fatal wounds and fell ten years ago this week, it took years to clean up the debris, tag it, and hold it as evidence. Now pieces of the World Trade Center have new homes in museums and memorials not just in this country but around the world, including in the Delaware Valley.
Piece by piece, with careful reverence, what’s left of the World Trade Center is being dismantled and redistributed to communities across the country for 9/11 memorials.
In April it was King of Prussia’s turn. Members of its volunteer fire company drove to John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens to claim their piece of history. Two pieces, actually, draped with American flags in respect.
The team was invited inside Hangar 17, the graveyard of Ground Zero. It’s as quiet as a funeral home.
“I can’t even think of the words to describe what you feel when you walk into this hangar,” said Chief Mark Ross of King of Prussia Fire Company. “There’s people attached to every single piece we see here.”
These sacred scraps are what’s left after the attacks on New York: an old subway turnstile, a fire engine ladder, police cars and fire trucks.
The sight of the wreckage moves some to tears. John Cramsey of Zionsville said, “It’s just absolutely unreal. I can’t describe the feeling of seeing just… the destruction.”
What you can’t see is what they can smell, an acrid chemical odor that fills the air. First responders at Ground Zero remember it well. One of them was Thomas Burke of Bushkill, New York.
“To go back in time ten years later, to see that steel and smell that smell, it was just overwhelming,” said Burke.
“This is cherished ground right here,” said Chief Ross, “and we have a piece of it now.” And with a hero’s procession, the steel was carried back to King of Prussia.
This August, it was finally time to place the steel in its final resting place, a memorial park outside King of Prussia’s fire company.
The design mimics the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the streets of New York.
“And the lights in the bases of each of those towers is symbolic of the forty Americans who went down in Shanksville,” explained Charles “Ed” McDonald, the architect of the memorial.
On this day, there’s still work to do. Joseph White, Jr., whose JJW Incorporated is building the memorial, said, “Just to bring this to the community, it’s a wonderful feeling.”
Some of the men working today have children who weren’t even born when the attacks happened. The oldest here is 8.
“When they’re older, I guess they’ll understand,” said Lt. Vincent DiSanto of the King of Prussia Fire Company, “but right now, they know that something happened on that day.”
Something they can now see and feel for themselves.
Eventually, the steel will be encased by two glass boxes designed to mimic the new Freedom Tower in New York.
The site was built with more than $43,000 in donations and countless man hours of volunteer labor.
Reported by Chris May, CBS 3