Never Forget 9-11
World Trade Center beam will be permanent reminder at The Avenue Viera.
It’s been said that inanimate things carry the weight of the places they’ve been — and the things they’ve seen.
Emerging from beneath an American flag, the newest addition to The Avenue Viera was revealed on June 3, and it’s an object with important stories to tell future generations.
A 7-foot-long, 1-ton steel I-beam originally recovered from the rubble of the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001 attacks sits atop two posts in a grassy area with benches across from the AMC Avenue 16 cinema. The 9/11 memorial beam is accessible to the public to view and touch.
The beam’s journey from New York City to Brevard County started in 2012. That’s when members of Transportation Workers Union of America (TWU) Local 525 and Kennedy Space Center firefighters requested a piece of the fallen tower to serve as a local remembrance. The petition went to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and had ties to Brevard County. FDNY Ladder Company 3 Captain Patrick “Paddy” Brown died saving lives on 9/11 — and he was the brother-in-law of a local TWU member.
It took a few years for the request to make it through the approval process, and the beam was dedicated at Kennedy Space Center Fire Station 1 on September 11, 2015. The location wasn’t ideal, though, because it was on Kennedy Space Center property and only badged employees could see it. The tour buses would drive by but not stop.
“One of the commitments we made... was that this artifact be put on display for public viewing,” said Kevin P. Smith, President of TWU Local 525. “About six months after its placement at the fire station, we began a search for a new home for the beam.”
The decision to move it to The Avenue Viera was made so that all residents and visitors could have access to this important piece of American history.
“We wanted to make sure that the new resting place for the Memorial Beam would be available to anyone choosing to view it without restrictions and without being charged a fee. These are just a few of the conditions set forth by the agency who releases the World Trade Center artifacts,” said Jim Dumont, a Senior Lieutenant with Kennedy Space Center Fire Department.
The Brevard County Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island was another site considered. Management at The Avenue offered a special spot for the memorial and paid for the material to prepare the site, Smith said, and it ended up the best location.
“The Avenue Viera is a great central location in Brevard County. Many citizens and visitors can now have incredible access to this artifact, which will be displayed with high honors for those wishing to sit at one of the park benches and have a few moments of silence. It shows that we have not forgotten,” Dumont said.
Escorted by retired police officers on motorcycles and other local organizations, about 400 people rode with the beam as it made its way to The Avenue on May 27, where it was draped in a black cloth. On June 2, the black cloth was replaced with the American flag that accompanied it on the journey from New York City to Florida.
After a moving dedication ceremony helmed by first responders who worked the 9/11 tragedies, either on the day of or in the months that followed, the American flag was removed to reveal the weathered beam.
“There’s nothing I can say to make you understand what it was like that day, what it was like in New York City in the months that followed the attacks,” Jim Paddock, a retired NYPD police officer and President of the Blue Knights motorcycle club, said.
Paddock, who moved to Viera in 2013, recounted the obstacles his own family encountered in the weeks following the terrorist attacks. He and his wife, Janice Paddock, also an NYPD officer, worked opposite 12-hour shifts for a month following the attacks and their sons, then 6 and 4, moved in with grandparents. In the years following, Janice Paddock suffered 9/11-related illness, having a mass removed from her throat that was later determined benign. His wife is one of the lucky ones, Jim Paddock said.
“What’s often lost in the story is that people are still dying from this tragedy. Twenty-three NYPD officers died that day, and another 140 have lost their lives due to 9/11-related illnesses. I know the numbers are similar with my fire department and military brothers and sisters,” he said during an address at the dedication ceremony.
In its new spot, The Avenue Viera general manager Scott McCarthy says he hopes that people will find a place of contemplation, of solitude, and of remembrance.
“It is an honor that The Avenue was chosen to be the new home for such an important piece of American history,” McCarthy said.
A special remembrance ceremony will take place on September 11 at the new memorial, with an event planned there every year on the anniversary of the American tragedy.
Remembrance isn’t the only goal of the memorial beam, though.
“We must teach children and young adults about September 11. Many of these young people were either very young or not even born when the tragedies occurred,” Dumont said.
The exact significance of the beam will vary from person to person but the first responders who worked diligently to bring it to Brevard hope its meaning stands the test of time.
“Hopefully the memorial beam will encourage the adults who witnessed these horrific events to take the time and explain the history of that day to the next generation,” Dumont said.
2,977: People killed in New York City, Washington D.C. and near Shanksvville, Pa.
2,753: People killed in NYC
343: NYC firefighters killed
23: New York City police officers killed
36: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officers killed
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