Joining Hands Across America to Remember 9/11
Firefighters from Carmel (pronounced car-MEL) California arrived in Carmel (pronounced CAR-mel), New York Monday afternoon to begin a 3,000 mile long journey that will bring a chunk of World Trade Center steel taken from Ground Zero to the San Francisco suburb. There it will be erected into a special monument remembering the tragedy that changed the world forever more than a decade ago.
The 15-inch by 12-inch length of steel weighing 150 pounds was cut earlier Monday in New York City before being placed in a Carmel fire truck that was accompanied by members of both Fire Departments to Putnam County for its first stop.
John Mulreany, President of the Carmel Fire Department, said he and his Putnam firefighter brothers and sisters were “thrilled to assist our neighbors in California anyway we can. Our joining of hands across America is about remembrance—remembering our eight Putnam heroes who lost their lives on that horrible day as well as the thousands of others who perished.”
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California resident CarrieAnn (who only uses one name) conceived the idea of a northern California 9/11 monument years ago: “I finally began writing letters to New York officials in an effort to claim a one-foot by one-foot piece of sacred steel that will serve as a memorial.”
CarrieAnn was initially advised that all allocations had been made: “That was before a miracle happened when I received a call from a retired FDNY firefighter whose son, Jonathan, also a firefighter, died in the World Trade Center attacks. The call from Lee Lelpi moved me to tears.”
CarrieAnn was informed that New York City’s fire commissioner was apprised of the request and personally ordered that a piece of steel recovered at Ground Zero be cut and turned over to the California community.
While CarrieAnn has resided in northern California for most of her life, she and her family lived in New Fairfield, Connecticut for a time.
“I remembered visiting Carmel on numerous occasions and that beautiful lake with the statue of Sybil Ludington. It hit me! Why not a 3,000-mile journey across the country so people can log onto a website and track the progress of our steel starting in Carmel, N.Y.,” she said.
As the sacred steel was carried from the fire truck before being placed on a table for public viewing, CarrieAnn cried: “This is such a special day for all of us. America became united like never before following the horror of September 11, 2001. By traveling across the United States with this steel in plain view for all to see, school children and firefighters are being reunited again. Car-MEL and Carmel, New York are the catalysts of this wonderful project. I’m so proud that scores of people from Carmel, New York to Carmel, Indiana and from Missouri to Montana will view this on its journey and be a part of the nationwide joining of patriotism.”
County Executive MaryEllen Odell welcomed the California contingent with open arms: “Without doubt this is one of the highlights of my first four months in office. I love our flag and what it stands for. I am so proud to be a New Yorker as well as county executive of our county at moments like this.”
Car-MEL FD Captain Justin Cooper was thrilled with the reception he and his colleagues received: “This is such an honor for all of us. People of Carmel are really special.”
Capt. Jim Courtney of the visiting fire service was also in awe by the reception: “People on the west coast who see Ground Zero on television reflect on the past but when you see the memorial in person, it knocks your socks off. I became so emotional. Not only did my fellow firefighter brothers die on that tragic day but others lost their lives as well. The day has hit home for all of us.”
CarrieAnn called it a “national honor. Our monument will be treated with respect. It will be not only for Car-MEL but for the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year who visit our wonderful city. It will be a destination. My only regret is that it has taken us 10 years to start but good things are worth waiting for.”