Traverse City Record-Eagle

Op-Ed Columns

September 16, 2012

George Weeks: 9/11 artifacts abound

Mobs overseas. Memorials at home. The focus here is on the latter.

In the wake of anti-American protests abroad, I'm struck by how on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks northern Michigan rallied last week in conducting and establishing memorials for that day that also pay tribute to police, firefighters and other first responders who serve us 24/7.

From Ironwood in Michigan's westernmost county of Gogebic; to Mackinac Island; to Cheboygan on Lake Huron; to the Grand Traverse region, communities held 9/11 events--some elaborate, some little more than a flag high atop a ladder on a fire truck.

At least 40 Michigan communities, including many in Metro Detroit, now have on display twisted steel girder portions among "Ground Zero" artifacts from the Twin Towers that were destroyed on 9/11 when hit by hijacked planes.

Three artifacts are in the Grand Traverse region — Traverse City, Williamsburg and Glen Arbor. Another, according to a 2011 tally by the Detroit Free Press, is in Hermansville in Menominee County's Meyer Township in the Upper Peninsula.

How does it happen that these pieces of steel--called "sacred reminders" by Glen Arbor Fire Chief John Dodson--made their way from New York to Michigan?

Because of community volunteers like former business owner John Kenny, a Navy veteran and Glen Arbor firefighter who contacted the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, custodian of 1,300 pieces, including steel beams, from the towers.

The only cost to groups requesting the artifacts is the shipment. In some cases, communities sent trucks to bring back large beams. Glen Arbor got its mangled 36-inch tall fragment by UPS and will have it mounted on a pedestal in a park-like setting in front of the fire station near a bronze plaque engraved with the names of the 343 firefighters who died as a result of the attacks.

At last year's event on Mackinac Island, ex-fire chief Dennis Bradley, who had 35 years with the department, said 9/11 "changed this country. I think it made it stronger."

This year it is timely to not only again remember 9/11 but also recognize those who protect us at home.

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