Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

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September 11, 2011

Part of fallen WTC arrives in Glasgow

GLASGOW — One man’s six-year quest came to a triumphant end this week, with the arrival of a rusted, beat-up chunk of steel. At first glance, the clunky piece of metal looks like it belongs in a scrapyard, or a dumpster. To Tony Atwood, battalion chief of the Glasgow Fire Department, that piece of steel is “breathtaking,” and worth every minute of the six years it took him to obtain.

The steel that Atwood and his fellow firefighters unveiled at the South Green Elementary School Patriot’s Day ceremony on Friday, Sept. 9, was a piece of the once-mighty World Trade Center, reduced to a pile of charred rubble after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Knowing the impact of 9/11, I thought this was a unique opportunity to bring back something that most people would never get to see, and to set up a memorial here in Glasgow,” Atwood said.

Atwood had decided back in 2005 that he wanted to get a piece of the World Trade Center brought to Glasgow, so the community could build a local 9/11 memorial. When asked to describe the process of obtaining the piece of steel, Atwood’s first words were, “Oh my goodness.”

It was a lengthy, at times discouraging journey. Atwood and his secretary, Polly Stillman, sent countless emails back and forth to the Port Authority of New York. He submitted an application, and then had to map out a plan of what he and the fire department planned to do with the piece. While the port authority didn’t charge for pieces of the World Trade Center, it was important to them that the piece of the trade center be displayed to the public.

“It was an extensive process to go through,” Atwood said.

In 2010, Atwood actually got a rejection letter, telling him there were no more pieces of the World Trade Center available, and the Glasgow Fire Department was out of luck. It was discouraging, Atwood said, but after a day he decided to email them one more time and explain that he really wanted to have a piece of steel. The answer was finally positive, and Atwood got back on the list and started making final preparations to bring a piece of the World Trade Center back to Glasgow.

“It was more than I would have ever imagined to get a piece of steel. But I understood the significance of it,” Atwood said.

Once the steel finally made it to the local firehouse, Atwood said cutting the straps off the box and unwrapping the piece of steel was a breathtaking moment. Understanding the tragedy that had befallen that piece of metal and knowing where it had been was almost beyond belief, he said.

“How do you describe that feeling?” he said.

Now that he has achieved his goal of bringing a piece of the World Trade Center to the local community, Atwood said the fire department plans to build a memorial around the steel in Beaver Trail Park. He’s not sure what it will look like or how it will be paid for, but he knows that he wants to create a nice-looking place where the community can come and remember 9/11.

“I want to get it out there where people can see it,” Atwood said. “I don’t want to keep it to myself. That’s not the intent.”

With just a day before Patriot’s Day at South Green Elementary when the piece of steel arrived, the fire department decided to keep it a secret until they unveiled their new treasure at the Patriot’s Day ceremony Friday morning. Yet again, Atwood used the word “breathtaking” to describe the experience of unveiling the piece of the trade center in front of the crowd.

“I think they were overwhelmed,” he said.

Atwood saw people crying and children staring as if they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. One small boy, Atwood said, who hadn’t even been alive on 9/11, told Atwood that he had gotten a tiny piece of concrete off the steel when he touched it, and he was keeping it in his pocket to carry with him. It was a touching moment, to see the value the child put on the remnants of the World Trade Center, Atwood said.

“How significant is that to a little kid, who has a little bitty piece of the World Trade Center on his finger,” he said.

The Glasgow 9/11 memorial will provide a place for everyone to go and remember the events of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Atwood’s personal 9/11 memories are memories of working at the firehouse. He was on duty that day 10 years ago, and he said he thought to himself that if life had unfolded differently, it could have been him working in New York City, rescuing World Trade Center victims. He and some of his men did not get to go home that night, he said, but one night away from his family did not compare to the tragedy of those who were never able to go home again.

Atwood wants the community to feel a sense of pride to have a piece of history in Glasgow, one that many people will never get to see. As he and the fire department think about starting plans for the memorial, he said he hopes that the whole community will get involved. Anyone who is interested in helping design the memorial itself, or donating money or time to building it can call the Glasgow Fire Department at 651-5170.

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