SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — Thank you, Spirit of Springfield. After two years of perseverance that included many letters and two rejections from the New York/New Jersey Port Authority, a beam from the World Trade Center’s fallen Twin Towers in New York has arrived in the City of Homes.
The Port Authority, which reportedly will not give away any more pieces from Ground Zero, had been inundated by requests from municipalities and non-profits throughout the country.
“We’re very happy that we did get it, for our firefighters, for our police officers, for our community,” says Spirit of Springfield president Judy Matt. Approval didn’t come until mid-August, and even that came without further detail.
“It was only, literally about a week ago that we knew the size, dimensions, and weight of it, so we would know what to send down to pick it up.”
In like manner, retrieval met with the most austere of weather, traffic, and security. Will Arment of Arment Trucking in Springfield (which donated its services) braved torrential rain and notorious New York road congestion, leaving home at 3 a.m. intently aiming to arrive on time for his scheduled 7:30 pickup at a JFK Airport hangar in Queens. He got there at 5:45.
“They don’t let you see anything. They come out from behind the building, they pull you up, put the piece of steel on, and you have to drive away before you can even chain it down. They bring in one person at a time and you’re not allowed to leave your vehicle.”
No phones or cameras either, says Will, who found his distinguished role a double-edged honor.
“It was a little nerve wracking because if something happened to this thing and it fell off the trailer on the way back, how do you explain that to everybody who’s waiting for you in Springfield? It’s also exciting at the same time, to be part of something that was so historic.”
So historic, and yet so horrible.
“Seeing a piece from the World Trade Center adds a real personal touch to this tragic event, and it really brings it a lot closer to home,” says Springfield Fire Chief Gary Cassanelli, who was among those eagerly awaiting word from the Port Authority all those months.
The eight-foot, 2,950-pound beam will eventually become part of a permanent memorial in Springfield, but because of all the secrecy shrouding the beam’s dimensions, there’s been no chance to draw up blueprints in advance of its arrival.
“The only thing I can tell you is, we’ve had some preliminary discussions; we’d like to center it at Forest Park somewhere,” says the Chief. No exact timetable for the memorial has been set just yet either, for the same reasons.
Unfortunately, there’s apparently no way to know what part of which tower the beam was. The Port Authority only identified it by a code: A-102. By its plain appearance on the back of the trailer used to transport it, chances are that none of the drivers who might have noticed it en route to Springfield could have been aware of the beam’s significance. But by the time it rolled up Main Street from the south just after 12 p.m. on Thursday, draped in a U.S. flag, onlookers recognized the solemnity of the occasion.
“I think the city really needs it, especially right now with what’s been going on, and, you know, it’s the ten-year anniversary, and I think it means a lot to the city,” says Gary B’shara of the B’Shara Deli on Main Street.
With a public ceremony scheduled at the Sullivan Public Safety Complex on Carew Street set for Sunday at 10 a.m., it’s a sentiment we’ll all get to share.