VENICE, Fla. - After years of work, a more than two ton, 14-foot beam from the World Trade Center in New York City was set in place in Venice Tuesday morning. It's the centerpiece of the new 9/11 memorial in Patriots Park.
At exactly 8:46am Tuesday, the 17-inch wide I-beam was hauled into the sky one last time. "What you are looking at is exactly how it came out twisted from the inferno it was taken from," says organizer Gene Sweeney.
Now, nearly 11 years later, at the exact time Tower 1 was struck, the piece now known to come from that same tower finds its final home. It's all a part of the Victims and Fallen Heroes Memorial at Patriots Park in Venice. "They can pretty much tell you what bolt, what screw, what beam, came out of what building and almost what floor."
It's been a long journey to the Suncoast. The beam was initially picked up in the debris, then stored in an airplane hanger as the FBI conducted forensic testing. Much of the steel from the buildings was used to build the battleship U.S.S. New York. With a piece of the rest, Sweeney and the Salt Of The Earth organization were determined to create a memorial.
Last year, volunteers drivers picked up the beam, and with a police escort across state lines, brought it to the Suncoast. For the past year it has been stored locally as Sweeney worked to raise the funds needed. "We now lovingly and jokingly refer to it as a three year overnight success."
Those who came out Tuesday say in the end the beam ended up right where it should be. The Suncoast certainly has its ties to the tragedy. The President was in Sarasota when he heard the news of the attacks, and some of the hijackers lived among us -- even training to fly in Venice.
Nokomis resident Beth Colvin says the beam is a fitting reminder. "It's an absolute treasure in our own back yard. Our children and grandchildren will be able to see this."
Venice firefighter Steve Roberts says he remembers. "I think about the guys who put it on the line and the guys up in New York. Everyone around the country who does it everyday."
Venice Police Chief Tom McNulty says the terrorists have failed. "As much sadness as can be connected to this there is a lot of pride because as a country we stood together. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we are proud to have it."
Remembering those who died that day and the those who have since died fighting the war on terrorism. "It's a perfect place right on 41. Hopefully people will know it's here and come visit...maybe even take a picture. Never forget," says Venice firefighter Brett Wasserman.
You can find more information at www.saltoftheearthusa.org.