BRADENTON — Overwhelming.
That’s how four Manatee County men described the emotion of being in the presence Friday of tons of wreckage from the fallen towers of the World Trade Center.
A team from Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue District was ushered into a massive New York City-area hangar where the debris is stored, everything from steel beams of all sizes to flattened emergency vehicles, all destroyed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“What a humbling experience when you go into the hangar. It’s so huge,” said fire commissioner Brad Ranney by phone from New York.
“There are different sections for steel from each section of the World Trade Center. There are areas where there are vehicles — police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, civilian cars. There were even subway trains. It’s all been crushed. They know pretty much where every piece of metal and every item came from,” Ranney said.
Ranney has been accompanied by his son Bradly, architect Dallas Leitner and firefighter Ryan Kaliher.
The team picked up a 12-foot steel beam from the hangar that they will bring to Bradenton. The beam will become part of a Sept. 11 memorial designed by Leitner. Bradly Ranney will help in the construction of the memorial.
“When you have time to sit back and reflect on what you’ve seen, it’s humbling,” Brad Ranney said. “You could see everybody tear up, including myself.”
“It was powerful. You can never be prepared for a scene like that,” he said of the sobering evidence of so many people killed in one attack.
Chief Foster Gover, of Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue, said it took a large payloader to move the massive beam into a trailer for the return trip home.
The heavy beam, a window support column, is making the trailer “beg for mercy,” Brad Ranney said.
The team is expected to leave New York with the beam today to return to Bradenton.
Law enforcement agencies and motorcycle groups have signed on to escort the beam. Some of the riders will ride the entire distance, others will go half way and many others will ride a shorter segment still.
A welcome celebration is planned for 8 p.m. Sunday at Firkin & Fox Restaurant, 2505 Manatee Ave. E., Bradenton. The public is invited.
The beam will be the centerpiece of a memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The memorial is to be dedicated on the ninth anniversary of the attack in less than two months in the administration office of the fire district.
The beam is traveling from New York to Bradenton via Interstate 95 to I-4 to I-75 and finally west on State Road 64 to Bradenton.
TRACKING THE BEAM
The itinerary for the return of a beam from the World Trade Center:
8 a.m.: Depart New York/New Jersey
9:15 a.m.: Pass Trenton, N.J.
10:30 a.m.: Arrive Delaware
11 a.m.: Arrive Maryland
2 p.m.: Arrive Virginia
5:15 p.m.: Arrive North Carolina
7:30 p.m.: Arrive Fayetteville, N.C.
8 a.m.: Depart Fayetteville
9 a.m.: Arrive South Carolina
Noon: Arrive Georgia
3 p.m.: Arrive Florida
5 p.m.: Arrive Daytona Beach
6 p.m.: Pass Orlando
7:15 p.m.: Pass Tampa
8 p.m.: Arrive Bradenton at Firkin & Fox Restaurant, 2505 Manatee Ave. E.