Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 16, 2012

George Weeks: 9/11 artifacts abound

BY GEORGE WEEKS, Syndicated columnist
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---- — 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.

Romney lags in Michigan

As reported Friday, a New York Times/CBS poll gave President Barack Obama a narrow three-point advantage over Republican Mitt Romney among Americans most likely to vote in November.

Based on Sept 8-12 telephone interviews with 1,170 registered voters, Obama had 49 percent and Romney 46 percent, a difference within the margin of sampling error plus or minus three percentage points.

However, as reported Thursday, a Sept. 8-11 poll by EPIC-MRA of Lansing for the Detroit Free Press/WXYZ-TV of 600 likely Michigan voters had Obama with a solid 10-point lead, 47 percent to 37 percent. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The poll also had Sen. Debbie Stabenow with a 49 percentage to 38 percentage lead over ex-Congressman Pete Hoekstra, her Republican challenger.

As goes the presidential campaign atop the Michigan ballot, so often also goes the Senate campaign.

Not since George H. W. Bush's swamping of Michael Dukakis in 1988 has a Republican presidential contender carried Michigan.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing Bureau Chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.