A U.S. Army truck pulled into the driveway of the Rocky Point Fire Department's Shoreham station Thursday, carrying cargo that tore at the hearts of the firefighters, veterans and families assembled there.
Resting on the bed of the Fighting 69th's tractor-trailer was a 16-foot steel I-beam from the World Trade Center, the rusted metal contorted by the hand of terrorism.
Fourteen-year-old John Staufer got goose bumps when he saw it. Lynn Logan, who was giving birth to her son as the towers fell, burst into tears. Mike and Pat Williams, whose 24-year-old son, Kevin, died that day in Tower Two where he worked in an investment firm, watched and remembered.
"I can almost envision that piece of steel next to Kevin when he passed on," Mike Williams said. "It just doesn't get any easier to see."
Rocky Point received the beam from the Port Authority for a planned 9/11 memorial on Route 25A next to the firehouse.
Twelve National Guard soldiers from a 69th Regiment company based in Freeport accompanied the nearly 3,000 pounds of steel from Kennedy Airport, where pieces are stored, to Shoreham in a convoy of armored Humvees, a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck wrecker and the tractor-trailer.
"It's a tremendous honor to be called up for this particular mission and to move such a sacred relic," said the detachment's commander, Lou Delli-Pizzi of Bay Shore. "It's part of American history."
Two soldiers unfolded an American flag and laid it atop the beam as if covering a casket. The audience then approached to stand for pictures beside the steel before going inside the firehouse for cake, cookies and remarks by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), Assemb. Marc Alessi (D-Wading River), and state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).
Tom Logan, an ex-chief and chairman of the fire department's 9/11 committee, said he hopes to raise about $30,000 for the memorial project. The fire district is donating land for the project at Route 25A and Tesla Street. So far, organizers have about $6,000 in hand.
"It was overwhelming, it really was," Logan said of Thursday's event. He added that a former member of the department died on 9/11. "We were all here, and we all did relief efforts for 9/11 when it happened," he said, "so it's coming back full circle."
Logan's wife, Lynn Logan, who was in labor with the couple's son as the towers fell, couldn't stop her tears Thursday.
"Even nine years later, it's very emotional," she said. "It's tough."
"When I saw it pull up, the first thing that came to my mind was everyone who was there that day," he said. "Then I looked down at my cousin, and this joy came to me. Out of this tragedy came new life."