BREWER, Maine — A warped 6-foot section of steel inside Brewer’s Public Safety Museum is a symbol of much more than the building it once helped support, said Mainers who came to look at the beam Tuesday on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Visitors examined the beam, ran their hands along its surface and thought back to the day it fell. They said it represented the loss, tragedy and heroism of that day.
The beam was once part of a massive, 135-ton section of steel between the 74th and 78th floors of the South Tower, which was hit by the second plane shortly after 9 a.m.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, including more than 340 firefighters, 60 police officers and emergency medical technicians.
“It was an emotional day not just for us in the public safety field, but for all Americans,” said Brewer firefighter Kevin Thibodeau, who guided visitors on tours of the museum and shared the beam’s story.
Visitors shared stories of where they were on the day the towers fell.
Gerard Bilodeau of Belfast said he was teaching at Gardiner Area High School on Sept. 11, 2001, and that he learned of the attacks when he got in to work. No classes were taught that day, and students and teachers spent most of the day quietly watching the news unfold.
“The whole day was just in limbo,” Bilodeau recalled.
Gerard’s wife, Ellen, was in New York City attending school during the late 1960s and early 1970s. She watched the towers go up.
“It was a feeling of shock” watching the the towers crumble in 2001, she said.
“Kind of feels like a little piece of home,” Ellen Bilodeau said while looking at the beam.
Several people who went to the fire station on Tuesday said the day’s weather brought back even more vivid memories from Sept. 11, 2001. They said the weather bore remarkable similarities to the day 11 years ago — the clear blue skies, the cool temperatures.
Firefighters from all over Maine — including Brewer — volunteered to go to New York City 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 Brewer Public Safety Building has three pieces of the World Trade Center’s twin towers on display to honor all who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 attacks.
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 station’s truck bay.
The second piece, part of the towers’ aluminum exterior, is displayed on the Police Department side of the complex, and the third piece is housed in the museum.
Brewer Fire Department Capt. Brent 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 what remains of the buildings is stored, to select the pieces.
“It’s really hard to describe how it made us feel” standing inside the hangar, Melvin said at the time. “It was kind of like we were on sacred ground.
“It’s still very real,” he added.
BDN writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.