by Michael Heller
On Wednesday, November 16, Sag Harbor received a special piece of American history when a small section of steel from the World Trade Center was brought to its new home at the Sag Harbor Fire Department headquarters building on Brick Kiln Road. The triangular-shaped artifact, which measures roughly 30 inches by 12 inches by 8 inches and weighs approximately 140 pounds, was transported from New York City by the fire department’s aerial ladder truck. Similar shards of steel from the Trade Center have already been delivered to communities across the country where they have been incorporated into memorials commemorating the 9/11 attacks.
The arrival of the steel here marks the culmination of a year-long project by writer and photographer Barbara Lang, Soldier Ride organizer Reggie Cornelia and JoAnn Lyles, mother of fallen Marine Jordan Haerter. Lang, who has extensively documented the World Trade Center disaster, knew Cornelia from being involved in the Soldier Ride project. Together, Lang and Cornelia approached Lyles and told her about their idea to bring a piece of the towers to Sag Harbor, suggesting that it would be a good thing for the Sag Harbor Fire Department and the community in general.
During the ensuing year Lyles filled out and submitted and sifted through “mountains of paperwork and red tape” as part of the application process. During that time, Sag Harbor’s Doris Gronlund, mother of Linda Gronlund who perished on United Airlines Flight 93 on 9/11, donated an American flag to the fire department that bears the names of all who were killed on that day. As the project gained momentum, the Sag Harbor Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary then joined the effort by presenting a plan to build a September 11th memorial garden within which to display the steel.
With the application approved, the aerial ladder truck, accompanied by Doris Gronlund and Sag Harbor Fire Department Chiefs Pete Garypie and John Anderson, was driven to Kennedy Airport to pick up the artifact early on Wednesday morning, arriving back in Sag Harbor at roughly 10:30 a.m., where a small installation ceremony took place.
According to Chief Garypie, the plans for the memorial garden have not been finalized, although he said that at this time, the thinking is that it will be located next to the firehouse near the corner of Columbia Street and Brick Kiln Road, and will be paved with bricks that can be purchased by the public in memory of deceased firefighters. The steel will remain on display in the main hallway at the fire department until the completion of the garden, which he hopes will be sometime in the spring.