MANATEE -- Just before four representatives of Southern Manatee Fire Rescue headed to New Jersey to retrieve a beam from the fallen World Trade Center this morning, the station received an emergency call.
Fire truck T343 responded, an irony not lost on Fire Chief Foster Gover. The number of firefighters who lost their lives in the collapse of the twin towers was 343.
Emotion was high as well wishers gathered at Station No. 4 at 5224 45th St. East to see the representatives off.
Making the trip are Fire Commissioner Brad Ranney; his son Bradly, who will shape the I-beam into the memorial; Dallas Leitner, an out-of-work architect who designed the memorial; and firefighter Ryan Kaliher.
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"It's going to be overwhelming seeing all the material in the hangar," said Bradly Ranney.
Brad Ranney said the project touches something deep in every firefighter.
"This is coming from the heart. It's an honor and a privilege. This is a piece of American history," he said.
Gover said his department just learned in the last week that it had been approved to receive a 12-foot beam, a salvaged window column. The gift to Manatee County is under a program authorized by the Port Authority of New Jersey/New York.
"It gives you goosebumps just to talk about it," Gover said.
The outpouring of support has been overwhelming, Brad Ranney said. Already law enforcement and motorcycle groups are signed on to escort the Southern Manatee truck and trailer from New Jersey to Bradenton.
The crew is scheduled to return to Bradenton 8 p.m. Sunday. A welcome home celebration is planned at Firkin & Fox Restaurant, 2505 Manatee Ave. E., with a live band. The public is invited.
“This idea came from one of our firefighters. All of us remember the horrors of 9-11 and this sculpture has been designed to incorporate all of the elements of that tragic day. In a Pennsylvania field, at the Towers in New York City and the Pentagon, America lost many loved ones and this memorial ties all of those pieces together in one tribute. It will be permanently installed for all of our community to see,” Gover said.
The I-beam will be cut into two pieces which will rise vertically from an auburn-colored metal base. A granite backdrop will be inscribed describing the 9-11 tragedy and a metal silhouette of an airplane will be affixed to it. The Pentagon will be represented by an aluminum structure. All materials and labor have been donated.
The memorial will be located in fire district headquarters at 2451 Trailmate Drive and will be dedicated on Sept. 11.