Mike Fenster had no ties to the Canadian town of Gander when he saw a television segment about its hospitality to air travelers stranded there after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Bethpage High teacher called a town police constable anyway, just to say thanks. That conversation nearly two years ago led to friendship.
Now, it's led to Fenster getting Gander a section of coveted World Trade Center steel.
While organizations across Long Island sought beams for their own memorials, the 53-year-old Bohemia resident envisioned a gesture of appreciation for the Newfoundland community's kindness to the more than 7,000 passengers it housed, fed and entertained for four days when U.S. airspace was shut down.
"My simple thing was, I wanted to bring a gift that would be significant enough to honor what they did," said Fenster, a physical education instructor.
After Fenster started the Port Authority application process, Gander officials won approval and are arranging shipment of the 120-pound piece of steel. It's expected to arrive for a 10th anniversary ceremony that Fenster plans to attend with several Bethpage students and residents.
"He was the catalyst," said Gander Deputy Mayor Zane Tucker. "It's a really beautiful, nice gesture to recognize our citizens."
The piece will be displayed in the town's aviation museum, said Debby Yannakidis, executive director of Destination Gander, which is organizing the Sept. 11 ceremony.
"We're extremely honored he would take the time to do this," she said. "To have such a significant piece of what happened in New York in our town, it's very honorable."
For years, Gander (pop. 10,000) has been lauded for going beyond expectations when its airport received rerouted travelers on Sept. 11, 2001. Residents opened their homes to passengers, donated their own clothes, provided food and put on plays for those staying in a large school in town.
Jennie Asmussen and Elaine Caiazzo, Bethpage friends and neighbors, were returning from Germany when they landed in Gander on Sept. 11, 2001. They plan to return with Fenster in September. "They were so overwhelmingly kind," Caiazzo said.