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Islip's steel WTC display moved to museum

Ex. Fire Chief of Great River Fire Department

Ex. Fire Chief of Great River Fire Department Robert Howard, looks at a piece of steel that once was part of the World Trade Center and is now on display at the Islip Art Museum in Islip. (Feb. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: Chris Ware

Displayed in the lobby of Islip Town Hall, the twisted steel beam from the World Trade Center couldn't always offer a place of quiet reflection.

Residents regularly breezed by to conduct business with the government. Young children sometimes leaned on it.

"It was not the most appropriate site," said new Islip Supervisor Tom Croci.

So Sunday, with a full police and fire escort, the town's rusted section of World Trade Center steel was moved a mile up the street to a small gallery space inside the Islip Art Museum at historic Brookwood Hall.

The roughly 3 1/2-foot-long, 50-pound beam -- one of 76 that the Port Authority awarded to Long Island organizations before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- will remain at the museum until officials find it a permanent home.

"This was more fitting," Croci said. "A place of honor."

Bagpipers from the Suffolk County Police Officer's Emerald Society marked the occasion. White-gloved firefighters loaded the steel, draped in an American flag, onto an Islip Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 engine.

Motorcycle officers then led a procession of fire trucks east on Montauk Highway and north on Irish Lane to the Brookwood Hall estate. On the art museum steps, Islip Fire Department chaplain Richard Simpson said the steel should "ever remind us of the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for the common good."

Once inside, it rested on a podium in a room lined with modern art lithographs. Visitors snapped photographs as the Otten family stood nearby.

Michael J. Otten, 42, a New York City firefighter from East Islip, died at the World Trade Center. Two of his sons, Christopher, 22, and Jonathan, 18, are now volunteers with the East Islip Fire Department, and hope to soon follow in their father's footsteps by joining the FDNY.

"It's nice that people still remember," a uniformed Christopher Otten said, glancing at the steel. "And it's nice to have something like this in town."

Marion Otten, his mother and Michael Otten's wife, said that Sunday's ceremony struck just the right chord. The relentless buildup to last year's 10th anniversary events had been difficult, she said.

"It's always tough, but it's still very touching," she said. "But this is also much more intimate. These are my neighbors."

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