Vincent Bellissimo, like most Americans, can tell you exactly where he was on September 11, 2001. “We were doing a job for somebody and the husband was killed in the World Trade Center as we were there,” Bellissimo said. “The wife came out screaming and yelling ‘My husband’s in the building!’ Later we found out that he was killed. I can still picture that guy and his wife walking into my office with a one-year-old baby. It’s something I will never forget.”
Bellissimo and his brother Chris are the owners of Salem Fence Company and Westchester Automated Gate in Baldwin Place. About three years ago, they decided to construct a gate at the entrance to Salem Fence on Route 118 in Baldwin Place honoring all who lost their lives on 9/11. “They were like soldiers that fought a war they never knew they were fighting,” Vincent said. The iron gate, pictured above, depicts the New York City skyline, with the Twin Towers still standing. The words “Never Forget” are emblazoned across the top.
Growing up in the Bronx, the sons of a New York City fireman, the Bellissimo brothers have always felt a special connection to the FDNY. “We lost 343 firemen in less than an hour,” Vincent said. “We have pretty close roots to the fire department people that were killed that day … It’s a pretty big family of people, even though my father’s retired, we still have a lot of contacts.”
Vincent has been working at Salem Fence Company, which his father started as a part time business, for the last 28 years. He and his brother began building gates ten years ago, but decided to form Westchester Automated Gate in 2003 as a way to draw more clients. “People were lumping us in the with all the other fence companies, so we wanted to let people know that we specialized in gates.”
Building the gate was an expensive, labor filled process, but Vincent said everyone thought it was a great idea. “I talked it over with my brother, talked to my guys in the shops, asked them what they thought about it, and everybody was gung-ho,” he said.
Manuel Carchipulla, one of Vincent’s employee, worked solely on the gate for over two months straight. “Everything is super detailed,” Vincent said. “I showed him a picture, he said he could do it … and I left the guy alone … He is incredibly talented.”
With time, labor, and materials the fence cost about $15,000, out of Vincent’s pocket. He said if someone was to order a gate of that quality, a low estimate would be about $40,000. There have been offers from people looking to buy the 9/11 gate, but it is not for sale. “I would never sell it to anybody. It doesn’t matter how much money they want to give me.”
Instead, the gate is being donated to the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department, and will be set up at the intersection of Route 6 and Croton Falls Rd., across from the fire house. “Don’t Forget,” Vincent said. That’s the only message he wants to convey to passersby. “Americans in general forget too easily … It’s part of our culture …Everybody just moves on,” Vincent said. “People don’t feel the same way that they did the day after … We were more unified after that. Now everything is split apart again.”
Saturday will be the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.