BREWER, Maine — Brewer Fire Department Capt. Brent Melvin is part of a brotherhood of firefighters who will never forget Sept. 11, 2001, when 343 firefighters lost their lives trying to help those caught in the doomed twin towers in New York City.
The Brewer Public Safety Building has three pieces of the World Trade Center’s twin towers on display to honor all who lost their lives on that fateful day nine years ago.
Melvin, police Sgt. Rich Smith and Nickerson & O’Day President and CEO Karl Ward went in October 2008 to Hangar 17 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the remains of the buildings are stored, to select the pieces.
“It’s really hard to describe how it made us feel” standing inside the hangar, Melvin said. “It was kind of like we were on sacred ground.”
“It’s still very real,” he added.
Time has softened the pain of losing so many brothers, but every time Melvin sees the mangled metal on display in the fire bay, “I think about everyone who lost their lives trying to help.”
Terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked four commercial airliners and flew two of them into the World Trade Center’s twin towers. A third plane was flown into the Pentagon, while a fourth went down in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to retake control. Approximately 3,000 people died that day.
Firefighters from all over Maine volunteered to go to New York after the twin towers fell, but the National Association of Firefighters sent out a message that put them in a holding pattern because of the influx of volunteers.
The largest World Trade Center relic on display in Brewer is an 18-foot-long section of a steel beam that still bears the yellow stenciled lettering it had when it was installed during the towers’ construction in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is displayed in the Fire Department’s truck bay.
A smaller section of beam is housed in the new Public Safety Building’s small museum, and the third piece, part of the towers’ aluminum exterior, is displayed on the Police Department side of the complex.
Remembrances are scheduled all over Maine today, Sept. 11, which has been designated “Patriot Day,” to pay tribute to those who died in the terrorist attacks nine years ago.
Gov. John Baldacci has directed that American flags and state of Maine flags be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset today.
“We will never forget the horrific attacks on our country on September 11, 2001,” Baldacci said in a statement Friday. “We lost many Americans that day. We should all take time to remember those who died nine years ago, and also honor the men and women who selflessly gave of themselves to try and save their fellow Americans during the attacks. They will never be forgotten.”
Baldacci is scheduled to attend a 9-11 Remembrance Blood Drive at 11:30 a.m. today at the Augusta Armory hosted by the American Red Cross.
The Bangor Fire Department will fly a 15-by-25-foot American flag from two ladder trucks at the Central Fire Station on Main Street. It is inviting people to stop by for pictures or to honk their horns while driving by in memory of those who were lost.
The New England chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, which is meeting this weekend in the Bangor area, plans a motorcycle procession at about 9:30 a.m. today through downtown Bangor. The procession will end at the Cole Land Transportation Museum, where there will be a wreath-laying ceremony to honor those who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Orrington Fire Department will put out a display today to honor the fallen firefighters in New York, Chief Mike Spencer said Thursday.
“We’re going to set out a set of boots, bunker pants and a jacket with a helmet,” he said. “We’ll put that out by the flagpole. We’ve done that every year since 9-11 to remember those who were lost.”
The Presque Isle Fire Department will hold a 9-11 remembrance ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. as part of the 47th annual Maine State Federation of Firefighters State Convention. The federation president will speak on behalf of board members, and a list of Maine firefighters who have died over the last year will be read.
The Caribou Fire Department will hold a 9-11 remembrance ceremony today. It will begin at around 9:30 a.m. at the Caribou Fire Station. Firefighters and other city officials will gather for the approximately 15-minute event, which will include remarks and words of prayer for the fallen.
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud issued a statement Friday about today’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“September 11th, 2001, is a day that we will never forget,” the 2nd District Democrat said. “We remember where we were. We remember how we felt, and we remember and honor the innocent lives lost as well as the brave first responders and the volunteers who died putting others’ lives before their own.”
In a statement also issued Friday, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe said: “With the heaviest of hearts, we observe the ninth anniversary of the terrible tragedy that befell our country on September 11, 2001, and changed America — and Americans — forever.”
The Maine Republican added: “I will always remember here in Maine, firefighters from throughout the state rushed to aid in the rescue and recovery efforts, the Portland Symphony Orchestra gave an inspiring ‘Concert of Remembrance and Healing,’ dedicated to those with close ties to Maine who lost their lives, and the 554 employees of a pulp and paper mill in Baileyville who donated more than $6,000 to help people whom the workers had never met, in places many of them had never visited.”
Melvin said that even though there are no formal municipal ceremonies scheduled in the Bangor area today to mark the historic day, most firefighters and police officers in the region will reflect on the loss of their comrades at 8:46 a.m. — when the first plane hit the north tower — and again at 9:03 a.m. — when the second plane hit the south tower.
“We’ll all stop and remember it,” he said.
BDN writer Jen Lynds contributed to this report.