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Unique Memorial To 9/11 First Responders Taking Shape

Inside a workshop in the Northampton village of Florence, Massachusetts craftspeople are working to create a 9/11 memorial using a 3,000-pound steel beam from the World Trade Center.  What promises to be unique among the nation’s many 9/11 tributes will be permanently located in Springfield.

The 9.5-foot tall I-beam, scarred and rusted with cement still attached at some spots, stands vertically in front of a curved bronze wall, which will have the names of more than 400 first responders who died on September 11th ,2001.  At night, spotlights on the artifact will cast the shadow of the Twin Towers on the wall.

Sam Ostroff of Salmon Studios said it has been an honor to work on the monument.

"This is not a piece about us or our artistic ideas. It is about that beam and using it in a respectful way," said Ostroff.

On Tuesday, elected officials, local first responders, and members of a fundraising committee for the memorial had a chance for the first time to inspect the project.

Springfield Police Officer Joe Gentile, president of Local 364 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, described it as “humbling.”

"It is just amazing to be in the presence of something that , unfortunately, so many of our brothers and sisters gave their lives for," said Gentile, who added he hoped the monument would result in people recalling how Americans pulled together after the 2001 terror attacks.

Congressman Richard Neal said seeing the steel beam brought back memories of what he witnessed at ground zero in lower Manhattan a few days after the attack.

"As I examined the artifact, it is just what it looked like, with so many pieces coming out of the ground," recalled Neal.

The Spirit of Springfield organization obtained the steel beam in 2011 through a donation program of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.  The program has provided more than 2,000 artifacts for memorials in all 50 states and in several countries.

The steel beam given to Springfield sat in storage while officials considered dozens of locations as possible sites for a permanent monument.  The design for the memorial was revealed in 2016.  Fundraising for the project began in April.

Springfield businessman Frank Colaccino, who chairs the 9/11 monument fundraising committee, said the $300,000 goal is within sight.

"We are about $65,000 - $70,000 away and I have every confidence it is going to happen," said Colaccino.

The memorial will be located in Riverfront Park, which is undergoing a $2.5 million renovation. Mayor Domenic Sarno said even if the park restoration is not finished by September 11th, the 9/11 memorial will be installed and dedicated on the anniversary of the attacks.

"It will be a very spiritual monument and properly located on the riverfront," said Sarno.

The city is paying $50,000 to build the base for the monument.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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