9/11 steel finding a home in Manatee memorial

MANATEE -- Much like the rest of the world, firefighter Ryan Kaliher watched the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold in shock and found himself glued to the television.

He was working a shift at Southern Manatee Fire Rescue at the time.

“It was kind of a weird day. We didn’t know what would happen next,” said Kaliher, a firefighter since 1999.

He has since visited Ground Zero and wears a bracelet with the name of New York firefighter Lt. Andrew Fredericks on his wrist.

Kaliher also took steps in 2009 to bring a piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center’s North Tower to Manatee to be used in a memorial that will depict the towers, the Pentagon and an airplane representing Flight 93 that went down in a Pennsylvania field.

The metal was transported this summer from New York to Bradenton, and on Tuesday afternoon, the untouched 11-foot-long piece of metal weighing more than 3,000 pounds began the process of getting cut in half.

It is believed the steel was once somewhere around the 30th floor.

Each half will be used to represent one of the towers, and Southern Manatee Fire Rescue is planning an unveiling sometime before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

“It’s an honor to have it in my shop and to be able to work on it. It’s more than I can put in words,” Bradly Ranney Jr., co-owner of All Phases Welding & Fabrication in Ellenton, said before cutting it in half. “I went to New York to get it, and even that trip was overwhelming.”

Firefighters not only brought the steel to Bradenton, but they also helped Ranney put together a steel outline of the Pentagon.

Ranney’s father, who shares a name with him, sat on the 9/11 monument memorial committee for SMFR and said he fondly recalls the ride to bring the metal back to Florida.

Local firefighters and citizens along the route formed motorcades to help escort the piece of steel to Florida.

All those involved say they are excited for the day the memorial is up at the administrative offices for the public to see.

“This is a tribute to all those who died,” said Rick Blanco, battalion chief of SMFR, who hopes it will serve as a reminder to children about the events of that day. “I’m having my first grandson in March, and he’ll only know what happened based on what he reads and what I tell him.”

And thanks to the efforts of himself and others in Southern Manatee Fire Rescue, his grandson will also be able to see a part of that history.