Story and photo by Doug Petrowski
Snohomish County Fire District 1 Commissioners on Tuesday tabled a resolution to cut a World Trade Center beam into two pieces for memorials in Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace when district firefighters emotionally objected to the plan.
“I have not, until this evening, understood there were some strong feelings toward the issue,” said Commissioner Millie Judge after two firefighters and their union branch president testified against the district plans.
The 8-foot beam was recovered from the ruins of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in New York City and was brought to Snohomish County late last year for the specific purpose of being display in memorial for fallen firefighters.
A fire district subcommittee will reconsider options for the beam at a May 11 meeting, with the full commission possible taking up the issue again at its next meeting on May 15.
International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1828 President Scott Hamilton told the commissioners that his union members oppose the plan to cut up the beam. “At no time has anyone (in the union) supported the idea of it being split,” he said. “We want it displayed in the original shape that New York shipped it in.”
“I can’t imagine we as an organization would even consider cutting it,” Hamilton added. The union branch president warned commissioners that if the plan to split the beam was passed “you will disenfranchise a large segment of (Local) 1828.”
District 1 firefighter Dave Erickson was one member of the team that traveled to New York to secure possession of the steel beam; he told District 1 commissioners of the emotional attachment he and many other firefighters have toward the artifact. “It is a tomb to us,” he said. “We will not allow it to be cut in half; I will chain myself to it if I have to.”
Fellow District 1 firefighter Travis Winston also testified at the meeting, saying, “Cutting that beam into two is the wrong thing to do.”
The firefighters, and public officials in Edmonds, have stated that they were under the assumption that Fallen Firefighter Memorial Park, next to Fire Station 17 in downtown Edmonds, was where the WTC beam would be displayed. “Our general body believed that Edmonds would be the final resting place for the steel,” said union branch president Hamilton.
Erickson said union members have raised money for the beam’s monument, thinking it would be placed in Edmonds, and added that preliminary plans have even been drawn up.
Meanwhile, some Mountlake Terrace officials have touted its Firefighters Memorial Park at 228th Street Southwest and 39th Avenue West as an ideal site for a portion of the beam, noting that former Fire Station 18 is in the process of being razed so that the park can be expanded.
The District 1 commissioners were clear that no decision has been made concerning the beam’s ultimate destination. “The commitment to Edmonds, I don’t think the board made,” explained Commissioner Bob Meador. Commissioner Judge added, “We have been very careful to say the board will have the final say for the steel’s resting place.”
The firefighters were satisfied with the commissioners giving the issue more time. Erickson said he would be at the upcoming meetings when action on the beam is discussed.
Branch president Hamilton was clear that he would fight for the beam to remain intact. “I would rather see the beam go to Terrace than be cut,” he said. “I would rather it go to Woodway (than be cut).”