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Community turns out to welcome 9/11 artifact after Arlington firefighters return from New York City
ARLINGTON — “We left last Sunday and came back today,” Brian Price said on Saturday, Aug. 20, of the round trip he and three of his fellow Arlington firefighters took to New York City, “but we’ll never forget what we saw.”
Arlington firefighters Price, Kirk Normand, Dan Hargroves and Jason Abrahamson received a heroes’ welcome home from cheering crowds on Olympic Avenue Aug. 20, as they brought back a 13-foot, 4,373-pound steel beam from the World Trade Center that had been destroyed by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Even before they left town on Aug. 14, their fellow firefighters had to reschedule to cover their shifts, while Arlington Fire Chief Bruce Stedman and Deputy Chief Tom Cooper worked out what the traveling firefighters’ itinerary would be once they arrived in NYC.
“Only 1,100 fire departments total will receive these artifacts,” Price said of the WTC artifact that’s set to be unveiled at 11 a.m. on Sept. 11 of this year at its new home at Firehouse 46 in downtown Arlington. “That’s 95 percent of the departments in the country that won’t get to have this experience.”
After 48 continuous hours of taking turns driving, the four firefighters arrived at Hangar 17 of John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the port authority keeps the WTC artifacts. They also visited Ground Zero of the terrorist attacks and downtown Manhattan’s Fire Station No. 10, which is located just across the street.
Price and Norman agreed that meeting New York firefighters who had weathered 9/11 was deeply moving, especially when they were confronted with the sight of other artifacts such as tattered banners and charred helmets.
“It was overwhelming, almost cathartic,” Normand said. “We hadn’t gone through it ourselves, so I don’t think the true weight of those events had hit home for us before then. It was a blessing and an honor for us to be able to bring back our artifact.”
“We talked to these firefighters who had worked there forever,” Price said. “When we first saw the artifact, it was like reliving that day. It was very emotional. There was this one bike rack that was all bent and twisted and dusty, and it still had the bicycles attached. That gave me goosebumps.”
As word of their journey circulated online via their Facebook page during their four-day return trek, the Arlington firefighters felt just as grateful for the kindness of their fellow Washingtonians once they returned to their home state.
“As we entered western Washington, this one semi-truck took the time to clear the traffic in front of our flatbed, carrying the artifact,” Normand said. “As he was sounding his home, I knew we were home because of how much people cared.”
“We were staying in Moses Lake last night,” Price said on Aug. 20, “and this Stanwood family that had been camping in Wenatchee came all the way to where we were to give us some homemade bread. At first, we thought your Facebook would maybe get 100 fans.”
“We got about 500,” said Kirk Normand, whose wife Courtney received at least one phone call a day from him.
“Thank goodness for unlimited texts on our phone plan too,” Courtney Normand laughed.
A Silvana fire crew saluted the returning firefighters and the WTC artifact, now stored in a specially constructed box, when their processional passed Firehouse 48 in Smokey Point, less than half an hour before the parade at noon on Aug. 20
Among the hundreds of onlookers lining Olympic Avenue that Saturday was retired Navy veteran Dave Lord, who was still active duty in the service when 9/11 happened. He, his wife Terie and his son Josh all came out to support the Arlington firefighters, as Dave recalled his own visit to Ground Zero, one year after 9/11.
“Seeing the destruction hits you pretty hard,” Dave Lord said. I’ve heard families talking with their kids today, asking them if they remember that day. It’s sad, but we need to remember the people who went through it, from the military to our law enforcement and firefighters, because they’ve all helped secure our freedoms.”
“I remember showing up to work that morning and my boss telling me, ‘You won’t believe what just happened,” said fellow Arlington resident Tom Turner, a Boeing employee. “
“It’s been a fabulous thing to watch these men’s progress,” former Arlington Fire Chief Jim Rankin said. “I wished I was there, but I was glad that I wasn’t,” he laughed, before turning serious. “This was the opportunity of a lifetime for these guys.”
To donate toward the approximately $50,000 in construction costs for a 9/11 memorial to house the WTC artifact, call the Arlington Fire Department at 360-403-3600, visit their website at www.arlingtonwa.gov/memorial or send a check payable to “City of Arlington 9/11 Memorial” to Arlington City Hall, 238 N. Olympic Ave., Arlington, WA 98224.
Photos and text updates of the journal can be found on Facebook at “Arlington, WA Fire Dept 9-11 Memorial.”