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In a somber ceremony Wednesday, and thanks to the initiative of Dover Air Force Base firefighters, the state of Delaware became the final state to unveil a public memorial to those who lost their lives on 9/11.
Outside the Air Mobility Command Museum at the base, the monument consists of a pentagon-shaped wall surrounded by steel beams from the fallen World Trade Center Tower One. Mounted nearby are a block from the Pentagon and a rock from the Shanksville, Pa., crash site of United Airlines Flight 93.
The effort to establish the memorial began five years ago.
On the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, firefighters at Dover asked for a piece of steel from the World Trade Center for the memorial they planned.
Nearly a year later, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey obliged: Two twisted beams from the 81st floor of Tower One.
The nation would mark two more anniversaries before the firefighters’ plan came to fruition. The Eagle Firefighters Association first had to raise the money for the $35,000 memorial. Contractors pitched in materials for free. Workers donated time.
As dignitaries delivered their remarks and airmen and civilians looked on Wednesday, a giant American flag strung between two 50-foot fire truck ladders whipped in the warm breeze.
Aaron Weisenberger of the firefighters association listed the losses of that day a dozen years ago. Lives lost: 2,753. Children who lost a parent: 3,051. Eighty police officers and 343 firefighters and paramedics killed.
Delaware is the final state to have a public 9/11 memorial, according to the base. The unveiling drew elected leaders and residents alike. Parents brought toddlers dressed in red, white and blue. Veterans and retirees in 9/11 T-shirts showed up. People traded stories about where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell told how his son, now 18, remembers that day. He was just 6.
Martyn Nevil, the guest speaker, described responding to Ground Zero in New York as part of Pennsylvania Task Force One. They called the rubble “the pile,” he said.
People often ask Nevil what it was like, he said. He tries to keep his answer short. “It was like walking onto the sound stage of a horror movie. But you couldn’t walk away.”
Markell told the story of a woman featured in a 9/11 documentary called “Rebirth.” She’d lost her fiance in the World Trade Center. The filmmaker, a friend of Markell’s, first met her a few months after the attacks.
“She was distraught,” Markell said. “The next year, she was still distraught.” By 2004, some of her friends who’d also lost partners had begun to date; she wasn’t ready. The year after, she moved from New York to Florida. In 2006, she went on her first date. In 2009, she finally put away her fiance’s photographs. Today, she is married and has children.
Markell recalled how the woman said she would always mourn the man she lost but that did not mean she isn’t entitled to live a life of joy.
“That’s what we as Americans do,” Markell said. “We pick up the pieces.”
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