Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Clear Lake Mirror Reporter
Clear Lake's new fire station will include an important piece of American history.
Eleven members of the Clear Lake Fire Department will travel to New York City next week to bring back a 10-foot piece of steel recovered from the fall of the Twin Towers in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. The steel will eventually be configured in a memorial outside the new fire station being built at the corner of 2nd Avenue North and North 8th Street. It is believed Clear Lake is the only Iowa community with a piece of the steel pulled from Ground Zero.
Jim FINSTAD, a lieutenant with the department, said excitement is growing about the trip.
"It's been about one and one-half years in the planning and a lot of work jumping through hoops, but we're ready and excited to make the trip and bring back this piece of history," said FINSTAD.
The Clear Lake contingent will leave town at 8 a.m. Sunday, driving a 13-passenger van donated and even customized with CLFD decals for the trip by Pritchard’s Auto. Frontier Labs, of Clear Lake, donated use of a trailer to haul the 10-foot long, 27-inch wide and two-inch thick piece of steel. Firefighters built and painted a box to transport the steel. "We want to treat it with respect," said FINSTAD.
The group will drive straight through to New York, arriving Monday and staying at a dormitory located at Fort Totten on the north shore of Long Island. While there, they will tour a training academy and two NYC firehouses, as well as visit Ground Zero. On their final day, firefighters at the Engine 308 fire house, located near Kennedy Airport, want to cook a breakfast for their Midwest brothers.
Some NYC fire personnel met local firefighters during last year's RAGBRAI stop in Clear Lake are also taking time to help show the visitors their city. FINSTAD said news of the trip has reached even those who do not directly know the Clear Lake firefighters, but want to participate in the escort of the group and their precious cargo from the city.
"A retired firefighter who is a member of the New York Fire Riders heard we were coming and he is organizing an escort with 30 to 40 motorcycles for us," said FINSTAD.
A police escort through New York City may also be part of the pageantry of the return trip. Once out of New York, the group will make their way to the United Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Penn., where one of the four airplanes hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists Sept. 11, 2001 crashed. Two airliners struck the World Trade Center twin towers and another crashed into The Pentagon in Arlington, Va.
The group will then proceed to Iowa, with a stop scheduled at the Iowa Fire Department Memorial in Coralville.
As the group nears Charles City, it will pick up an escort supplied by Cedar River Harley Davidson and law enforcement officers.
They are expected to arrive in Clear Lake at approximately 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19, traveling on Highway 122 from Mason City. (Look for updated information in next week's Mirror-Reporter, along with photos from New York).
Once in Clear Lake, firefighters plan to display the steel piece at their museum, open each weekend 1-4 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The chance to see remnants of the 9/11 disaster is rare.
It has taken the government 10 years to receive permission from the courts to distribute the wreckage, which is considered evidence of the Sept. 11 attacks. Steel beams, along with other artifacts such as smashed fire trucks, have been stored at Hanger 17 at the Kennedy Airport. The Port Authority is in charge of distributing the beams and have been using a plasma cutter to slice the beams to sizes specified by groups chosen to receive them. There were 1,200 pieces at the start of the distribution process, now about 700 are left. All will be given away before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy.
FINSTAD said the group is honored to have been granted permission to tour Hanger 17.
The firefighters invite the public to share in their historic trip to New York by watching their Facebook page for photos and comments: Clear Lake Fire / Rescue.
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2011; updated September of 2014
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