|Janesville's 9/11 memorial features beam from World Trade Center|
|Janesville's 9/11 memorial features beam from World Trade Center|
|Written by Rick West/Janesville Messenger|
|Thursday, 08 September 2011 15:40|
JANESVILLE — On Sept. 11, 2001, 343 New York firefighters lost their lives responding to the nation’s worst terrorist attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Ten years later, the sacrifices by those brave Americans are still mourned in firehouses across the nation.
“We’re a long way from (New York), but it’s a strong (firefighter) brotherhood,” said Janesville Fire Chief Jim Jensen. “It’s almost unbelievable what they’ve gone through … and the number of (firefighters) lost.”
To remember the sacrifices of that day 10 years ago, the Janesville Firefighters Charities is now planning to erect a 9/11 memorial at Fire House Park in downtown Janesville.
The memorial project began when retired firefighter Kevin Murray, past chairman of the firefighters charities, learned that beams from the World Trade Center were being made available to charities throughout the country. And in April of this year, a 6-foot-long cross beam, weighing between 350 and 400 pounds, arrived in Janesville.
“They didn’t provide us with information as to where the beam came from,” said firefighter/paramedic Justin Wiskie, who succeeded Murray as chairman of the firefighters charities. “We know it’s part of one of the two towers, we just don’t know which one.
“But it’s still significant because it’s a direct connection to 9/11.”
At first, the plan was to just display the beam “as is” at Fire House Park, however, veteran firefighter Dave Sheen felt a more meaningful memorial or monument should be considered.
Sheen contacted retired J.P. Cullen architect David Kemp, and through Kemp’s connection to a colleague in Detroit, the concept for a monument took shape.
“If it wouldn’t have been for (Kemp’s) expertise, this project would not have happened,” Sheen said.
The monument concept is a 2-foot square, 12-foot-high concrete column.
“It represents the twin towers,” Sheen said. “(The beam) will be displayed horizontally from the concrete column and it will face east towards New York.”
Sheen said it was decided to display the beam horizontally because that’s how it would have been used in the Twin Towers. Sheen added some of the markings by the ironworkers who installed the beam are still visible, and one end shows where the beam broke in the collapse of the towers. The reaming bracket at the other end will be used to attach it to the concrete monument.
Wiskie said the monument will be a memorial not only to firefighters, but police officers and civilians who died on 9/11.
“It’s done out of respect and appreciation,” Wiskie said. “If you forget about it, or don’t honor those people, their memory might fade a little bit.
“I think the monument we’re going to create is going to be one of the most unique in the country.”
Although the memorial won’t be finished in time for today’s ceremony, the public will get a chance to see the beam during the noon ceremony at Fire House Park (see related graphic). Jensen and Murray will be among the featured speakers at the patriotic memorial ceremony.
Wiskie said officials from Grainger/Lab Safety will make a presentation of $7,500 to the fire department during the ceremony for the purchase of a thermal-imaging camera.
“Thermal imagining cameras are very instrumental for firefighting for us locally, but they were also instrumental at 9/11 for trying to find people in the wreckage,” Wiskie said.
Immediately following Sunday’s ceremony, Time Out Pub & Eatery will host a benefit lunch, with proceeds going to the creation of a Janesville Firefighters Charities scholarship fund. The scholarship will be given annually to one student from both Craig and Parker high schools, who plan to pursue a career as a firefighter and/or emergency medical services professional.
Ten years later
In addition to the strong emotions that remain 10 years after 9/11, there are other reminders of the impact of that day.
Jensen said the lessons of that tragedy have changed fire departments nationwide.
“We’re training today in areas we hadn’t even heard of 10 years ago. It’s forced us to broaden our training horizons,” Jensen said. “Like it or not, we have to train in a number of areas we didn’t prior to 9/11.”
Special units within the county, like the Rock County Hazmat Team, are the result of money granted to departments after 9/11.
“I think that’s a benefit we enjoy today,” Jensen said. “It’s not strictly for terrorism, which is an unlikely occurrence in Rock County, but we have to be prepared for it.”
Communication among emergency responders also has changed.
“We rely a lot on cellular communications today,” Jensen said. “Not just on our traditional methods of communication.”
Painful to watch
Most major TV networks and cable channels have dedicated significant programming hours this week replaying of images from 9/11.
For many, those images are still very vivid within their own memory.
“I’m watching some of the documentary shows now, of remembrance, and they are painful to watch,” said retired city of Janesville engineering director Len Carlson. “But it’s probably important — like with any major historic event — to watch and remember.”
In late 2001, a little more than three months after the attack, Carlson and his wife, Yvonne, traveled to New York and volunteered for three weeks at an American Red Cross service center that was seven blocks from ground zero.
The Carlsons mainly helped people whose income had been reduced as a result of the attacks, Len Carlson said.
“Basically, the Red Cross took the stance that they wanted to eliminate any financial effects (of the attacks),” he said.
The Red Cross was able to help many people, thanks to the generous donations from many Americans, he added.
The Carlsons spent about 10 hours a day at the center and only went once to ground zero.
“It was overwhelming to see the effects,” Len Carlson said. “It was an incredible experience.”
Yvonne Carlson said there were some language barriers because many of those seeking help at the center were Cantonese-speaking workers from New York’s garment district.
She said she still remembers the stories of some of those who came to the Red Cross center, including a woman suffering from bipolar disorder, who had left her apartment for the first time after the attack.
Yvonne Carlson also recalled talking with local residents on a sunny day, just outside the center.
“They told me, ‘You know, where you’re standing, you shouldn’t be standing in the sun, it would have been in the shadows (of the World Trade Center).’”
Whether they watch the documentaries or not, 9/11 has forever changed the Carlsons.
Yvonne said her husband, an engineer and numbers guy, was changed during those three weeks in New York.
“That’s where he got a heart,” Yvonne Carlson said. “He cried for the first time.”
|Last Updated on Thursday, 08 September 2011 15:41|