Viera’s Memorial Beam Park honors victims of 9/11


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The Melbourne Fire Department Honor Guard participated in the ceremony.

photo by Darrell Woehler

A steel I-beam from the wreckage of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers of New York City now is permanently on display for the public at The Avenue Viera.

The most recent journey for this 8-foot long, 2,200-pound chunk of steel was on May 27, 2017, when it was moved from its temporary location at the Kennedy Space Center Fire Department to The Avenue Viera in a special caravan on the back of a tractor-trailer rig, draped in the American flag and escorted by several hundred motorcycle riders. The caravan entered off Stadium Drive and proceeded under a giant American flag, held aloft from two Melbourne Fire Department ladder trucks. 

An American flag was held aloft by two Melbourne Fire Department trucks as the steel beam entered The Avenue Viera. | PHOTO BY DARRELL WOEHLERA huge crowd gathered at the newly constructed park in front of the fountain near the AMC movie theater. Two miniature towers representing the Twin Towers were constructed and now are holding the steel-beam artifact. The beam was unloaded with full honors by the Melbourne Fire Department Honor Guard, and then moved by a tractor to its final resting spot in the park. Also on hand were representatives from Fire Department #1 at Kennedy Space Center, including Tom Van Horn, a 43-year veteran firefighter with 36 years at  Kennedy Space Center. Van Horn was instrumental in getting the beam to the space center. There also were numerous retired members of the New York City Police Department and Fire Department in attendance.

 Ceremonial music was provided by the Brevard Police & Fire Pipes and Drums Corps for this event, as well as the dedication a week later. 

Van Horn and the Kennedy Space Center Fire Department originally applied to the Port Authority of New York for an artifact from the World Trade Center in 2011. In 2015, their request was approved.

Final dedication for the I-beam took place June 3 at the new memorial site at The Avenue Viera. It was a rainy morning for the dedication, perhaps masking the tears in the eyes of many. The rain soon ended, but not the tears of many in the large crowd, which included many New York Police and Fire Department active and retired personnel. Several were 9/11 survivors.

 Numerous speakers from local as well as New York organizations recalled events of that infamous day nearly 17 years ago. An audio recording was played during the ceremony of Capt. Patrick (Paddy) Brown of Fire Department New York Ladder Company 3 during his plight in one of the towers.

Tom Van Horn is a 43-year veteran firefighter. | PHOTO BY DARRELL WOEHLER“This is 3 Truck and we are still heading up.”

 It was time-stamped 9:21 a.m., September 11, 2001, 35th Floor, North Tower. 

 Capt. Brown’s sister, Carolyn Brown, was on hand to participate in the dedication by coming forward to place Capt. Brown’s Fire Department helmet, No. 3, on the flag-draped steel beam.

Three flag poles have been erected in the park — one for the United States flag, one for the Florida State flag and the other for the Avenue Viera flag. Two plaques are in place — one explaining the historical story and the other honoring the Fire Department New York. Plaques honoring the New York Police Department and the Port Authority of New York are planned for the future.

The original journey for this now-rusting artifact from that terrible day appears to have begun in Coatesville, Penn., where it was forged into a steel beam by Lukens Iron Works in the late 1960s. From there, it made its way to a notable spot in one of the gleaming towers of the World Trade Center on the New York City skyline.

After the attack, most of the buildings’ remains were stored in Hangar 17 at JFK Airport in New York. From there, pieces have been sent to all 50 states and various locations on four continents. The number for this particular piece is Artifact G-0063.

Kolt Branch, 4, salutes as the beam is removed from the truck his father was driving. | PHOTO BY DARRELL WOEHLERVan Horn and Kevin Smith, president of Transport Workers Union 525, were key figures in bringing the artifact to the area.

From Hangar 17 at JFK Airport, the beam’s journey continued to Philadelphia by truck and then by air to Miami. It was then transported by truck with honor escorts to the Kennedy Space Center Fire Department and finally to the Avenue Viera and its final resting place. 

Scott McCarthy, general manager of the Avenue Viera, encouraged everyone to visit Memorial Beam Park at any time. At night, special lighting has been installed.

Van Horn said the public now has the opportunity to reflect on, view and touch this spiritual piece of American history to honor that day and the nearly 3,000 lost lives. The memorial also honors the new Freedom Tower that nows fills the new skyline of New York City. 

See the video online at http://bit.ly/2tuh59n

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