9/11 in Nanaimo
By Anja Hamerski
Screams. Panic. Dust. Shrapnel. That was a Tuesday morning in New York when the two main towers of the World Trade Centre were destroyed. September 11th claimed 2819 lives, of which 23 were police officers and 343 were fire fighters.
In memory of those who died, and to honour the brave fire fighters who lost their lives trying to save the innocent, Nanaimo has erected a monument to 9/11 displaying a piece of the towers.
The steel fragment traveled a long way from Hangar 17 at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Nanaimo’s Fire Rescue museum in Station #1 on Fitzwilliam Street. According to the commemorative plaque accompanying the piece, it is one of 1,500 distributed by The Port Authority of New Jersey and New York to communities around the world. It has been on display since the beginning of this year.
Brenda Krastel, Administrative Assistant for Nanaimo Fire Rescue, explains that the artifact is “27 inches long, 12 inches wide, 10 inches high, and 95 pounds. That’s not so big” she adds, “but it’s a really heavy piece. I can’t lift it on my own!”
Krastel says the process of creating the memorial was neither swift nor easy. “Back in 2009, we noticed an article in a fire industry magazine stating that pieces of steel from the World Trade Center buildings were available to fire departments to be made into monuments of the event. We applied for a piece in September of 2009 and received it at the end of 2011.”
The steel was in rough condition when it arrived, and fire fighters wanted to take the time to carefully clean it. “We also took the opportunity to have it clear coated so that it wouldn’t rust,” says Krastel. “There was a gap between when we received it and when the monument was done because we were thinking about how best to present it and where it should be placed.”
Similar 9/11 monuments have appeared in cities and towns across Canada, including Berwick, NS, Corner Brook, NL, Gander, NL, Belleville, ON, Meaford, ON, and Calgary. Nanaimo’s, however, seems still to be largely unknown to its residents — even those in the neighbourhood.
Says Naomi Gilbert, who works at an office near the fire hall: “It’s small and you can overlook it very easily if you don’t search exactly for it.”
Krastel explains that the steel piece was previously on display in the small fire department museum at Station #1, “but that building is only open when the fire crew is in attendance, so it was not something that we advertised. People coming in for tours were told about it but that was about it.” She expects the department to “do a media presentation on it” in the near future, and that “We will be using the site to recognize a moment of silence each September 11th in respect to the many lives lost.”
Meanwhile, at least a few people are aware of the monument, which carries the same message as the Ground Zero Memorial in New York: “Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on. May we never forget.”
Naomi Gilbert knows of it because “a friend of mine was a fire fighter and he told me about it and the story behind it. I think that’s a great idea, to honour the deceased fire fighters and also the innocent people who died. I hope someday many people will know about the monument.”