With World Trade Center steel dwindling, York's beam on display


Fewer than 30 pieces of steel remain in New York's Kennedy Airport from the debris recovered after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but York has held a relic from the tragedy since 2009.

The 3,000-pound, 9-foot-11 steel beam sits atop Prospect Hill Cemetery's Court of Valor memorial, which will be on display Sunday during the cemetery's seventh annual Court of Valor ceremony, managing partner Jack Sommer said.

Artifacts from the World Trade Center can be found among memorials and museums in all 50 states and in eight countries, the Associated Press reports. Of the 1.8 million tons of debris recovered from the site, 840 pieces of steel were collected, and some of those were cut to make a total of 2,200 separate items. Applications for the remaining steel are still plentiful.

Bringing it to York: Sommer remembers the application process well, as he's recounted the story countless times since the steel was acquired, he said.

"I was almost at the point of forgetting about it and thinking it was never going to happen," Sommer said, explaining that it took nearly 10 months for him to hear back from officials in charge of donating the steel. "Then I get a phone call from them telling us to come to New York to pick out our piece."

Sommer said he and his team decided on the beam — which had served as a lintel, or load-bearing component, for one of the towers — because it fit well with the archway they were planning for the memorial and "looked like it had been ripped out of the building."

"It spoke to the trauma of the event," he said.

After initially being stored in Lancaster, the beam was brought into York with the help of police and fire departments on Sept. 11, 2009.

Sheriff Richard Keuerleber fondly remembers being a part of that process.

"I remember it was raining, but everyone still participated," Keuerleber said. "It was an excellent event, and I was honored to be a part of that act of patriotism."

Memorial ceremony: The memorial was unveiled on Nov. 11, 2009, during Veterans Day ceremonies, with more than 100 names of soldiers with valor inscribed on the black granite archway, Sommer said.

On Sunday at 1 p.m., 15 additional honorees' names will be added, bringing the total to 355. The ceremony will be held in the veterans section of the cemetery, which is accessible from the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance.

The free-to-attend ceremony typically draws 700-800 people, but Sommer anticipates that number might be higher this year because of the unveiling of the Safekeeper's Shrine.

The shrine will serve as York County's first responders memorial, the only such public memorial in the county.

The 14-foot-tall shrine features a large glass panel depicting silhouettes of fire, law enforcement and emergency medical employees. Thirty-four law enforcement, fire and EMS losses will be memorialized in the initial unveiling.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.