FITCHBURG -- A monument featuring a 14-foot column of twisted steel that fell from the North Tower of the World Trade Center was dedicated Tuesday at a commemoration ceremony on the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The monument stands outside the Fitchburg Fire Department’s North Street headquarters. It honors the 2,977 people killed in the deadliest attack ever on American soil, 343 of whom were firefighters, Fire Chief Kevin Roy told the crowd.
“This was a great tribute to a terrible day in our country,” he said.
Local artist Camilo Neves secured the steel beam that arrived in Fitchburg on Dec. 10, 2011, from New York’s Port Authority, Roy said.
The beam once stretched between the tower’s 98th and 103rd floors. It remained in storage until last year, when students, contractors and members of the department completed the 9/11 Memorial that now stands on permanent display.
Mayor Stephen DiNatale addressed the crowd. He said the beam was placed outside the fire department in honor of the 343 firefighters who died 17 years ago.
“Everyone here can recall where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news, when the core of our being was shaken,” he said. “Such was September 11, 2001, when we witnessed the deadliest attacks in our nation’s history.”
Fires at the site of twin towers burned for 90 days after the tragedy, he said.
“This monument is a reminder that our nation refused to be broken, it is a reminder of the strength of our community and our enormous sense of pride,” he said.
For more than a month after the attacks, groups of Fitchburg firefighters traveled to the funerals of fallen firefighters to “meet their brothers in New York, and to mourn with them,” said Fire Lt. Richard Liberatore.
Liberatore volunteered to lead the effort to create a memorial out of the steel beam, said DiNatale.
At the time, there was debate over where to erect the memorial, said Liberatore. Firefighters rallied in support of placing it at their headquarters.
The base of the memorial includes four granite blocks taken from Fitchburg Fire Department’s former headquarters at 28 Oliver St., he said.
Students from Montachusett Regional Technical Vocational School’s automotive program sealed the beam to prevent rusting. The school’s masonry students helped construct the base.
Liberatore’s son was 11 when the towers fell, but went on to serve five years in the Marines before joining his father on the Fitchburg Fire Department.
“I told the chief I wasn’t retiring until this project was done, so now that it’s done, I can retire,” he said.
The death toll among first responders who entered the buildings without the proper protection continues to rise today, said Police Capt. Steven Giannini.
The 71 law enforcement officials who were killed that day is nearly the equivalent of the entire Fitchburg Fire Department, he said.
About 20 local police officers helped in New York after the attacks because, he said, “when cops need help, cops go help them.”
“I believe we did prevail. I believe we continue to prevail,” he said. “This monument not only honors those who lost their lives on that day, and the days to follow, but it’s a reminder that we banded together, that we prevailed.”