9/11 Memorial beam finds final resting spot
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
City officials, dignitaries and fire officials gather to break ground for the 9/11 Memorial beam monument in Courthouse Park on Saturday.
After Madera County acquired one of the 9/11 Memorial Beams from the World Trade Center earlier this year, the plan was always to present it around the city and finally find its permanent spot in Courthouse Park.
Ground was broken Saturday after the Old Timers’ Day Parade for the 9/11 Memorial where the beam will be housed near the Madera County Courthouse Museum.
The beam will have a permanent structure near the courthouse surrounded my a firefighter memorial in a garden-like setting.
Madera County Administrator Jay Varney led the groundbreaking ceremony Saturday afternoon with a couple of special guests.
Steve Shinn was near Ground Zero and his wife worked near the World Trade Centers. He and his company was instrumental in getting the 9/11 Memorial Beam to Madera.
“I was working for a large recycler that overlooks lower Manhatten,” he said Saturday. “My wife and daughter were in Manhatten. We could see the first plane hit the tower and subsequent damage that occurred. For me, it was a life-changing event. A few things happen in your life where you can say that, but for me, that’s what I can say.
“What made it difficult for me was I couldn’t reach my wife or daughter for hours. My wife worked near the World Trade Center. I was worried about whether or not she was nearby. I was lucky she wasn’t. She was late to work that day.”
Shinn’s company helped recycle two-thirds of the steel beams of the World Trade Centers that equated to 200 tons of steel scrap. In recycling the metal, he saw the human side of the tragedy and wanted to have these beams become a memorial to that day.
“What I saw in the people that worked for me was a dedication you rarely see among people,” he said. “It’s something to be thoughtful about how devastating events can bring people together. Sadly, it takes that hardship for people to realize how much they have in common, and when they do bond together, they can do great things. We were able to do that work in nine months without a safety incident occurring. We worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even our work pales in comparison to what the firefighters did that day. They are selfless people. They are fully dedicated to everyone here and everywhere. When you need help, firefighters will voluntarily step in. It’s something I reflect on regularly, certainly every year.’
Shinn is proud Madera will feature the beam and honor those who sacrificed their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I am really excited by how much care, love and attention this community and its leadership have given for the opportunity to have this piece of the World Trade Center here and a dedicated memorial to it. It’s respectful. I can’t thank the community and leaders enough,” he said.
KMJ producer and personality Christina Musson was a 20-year-old student going to New York University at the time of the attacks and got a first-person look at the attacks.
“I get nervous when I talk about this topic,” she said. “It’s an emotional topic for me. While it’s therapeutic to talk about what happened about 9/11, it’s also emotional.”
Musson lived just two-and-a-half miles from lower Manhatten in Greenwich Village. Her dorm room had views of the World Trade Center and she saw the second plane hit the towers.
“That morning, I got a phone call from my mother in Fresno,” she said. “I was getting ready to go to class. It was the first week of school. She said to me that I needed to open my windows. I had, or did have, a great view of the World Trade Centers from my dorm room. She told me to turn on my TV and open my windows so you know what is happening.”
She remembers her conversation with her mother succinctly and it still stands with her.
“She said, ‘I think America is under attack, right now. I need for you to be safe. We are lucky we have a phone call right now. Know that I love you. Communications are on those towers so we might not be able to talk for a week. Whatever you do, just promise me you’ll stay safe.’ I kept my promise. There are some people that didn’t stay safe that afternoon.”
Musson said that 9/11 was one of the best and worst moments of her life.
“On that day, I got to see what America does in a time of crisis,” she said. “That will live with me forever. Americans in New York City did not panic. They kept calm. They opened their homes to strangers and allowed them to sleep on their couches until they could find another place to go to. They swarmed the hospitals to try to give blood. They just wanted to do something, whatever they could. I waited for a line that went two Manhatten blocks for people to give blood. They volunteered to search debris. My friends and I made food and baked cookies. We took them as far to the front lines as we could get. We would take food and goodies every day because that’s what we could do. We knew there were so many people doing so much more.”
She also saw how the country came together in a time of need and a time of crisis.
“Then, there was what you did across America, which meant so much for a girl like me from Fresno living in New York City with no family around and that was putting American flags in your front yards,” she said. “When I went to stay with a family for a week and saw those flags, I felt like home. I felt like everyone had my back.
“This beam represents all of that. It represents strength not only on 9/11, but on September 12th. That day is just as important as September 11th. That’s how America responded the day after, and showing American strength — that’s what that beam means to me. To all the first responders, I say, ‘Thank you for what you did that day. It meant the world to me.’”
Madera County Battalion Chief Justin Macomb said that the beam memorial will be a special place for fire departments in Madera County.
“This beam is going to be a place to memorialize the 343 first responders that lost their lives that day and 2,977 individuals that lost their lives and those that are dealing with the aftermath 20 years later,” he said. “This is going to be our way to make sure we are able to keep the promise to never forget.”