Cpt. William Cummins of the Shrewsbury Fire Department is shown with a recently acquired piece of steel from the World Trade Center towers that were destroyed Sept. 11, 2001. The artifact will be on display at the Shrewsbury Fire Department headquarters as a permanent memorial to those lost in the terrorist attacks. PHOTO/JOAN GOODCHILD
By Joan Goodchild
Shrewsbury – On Sept. 11, 2001, the day two terrorist-piloted airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center towers, plummeting New York City into chaos and carnage, Shrewsbury Fire Department Cpt. William Cummins, along with the rest of the fire crew, watched helplessly as the events unfolded on television.
“The day it happened, we all wanted to jump on a bus and go there,” Cummins said, “but obviously we couldn’t just self-deploy like that.”
Among the thousands killed that day in New York, as well as in attacks in Washington and a field in rural Pennsylvania, were 343 firefighters who lost their lives during rescue efforts in the towers; both of which eventually collapsed. The fatality figure weighs heavily on the hearts of firefighting professionals around the country and in Shrewsbury. It is with that emotion and a desire to honor those lost that prompted Cummins to try to find a way to memorialize the “fallen” right here in town.
Cummins recently received a piece of one of the crumbled World Trade Center towers through the World Trade Center Artifacts Program, an effort coordinated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Port Authority officials have been cutting up and distributing pieces of the towers to municipalities and other agencies that request them. Until distribution began, the artifacts had been stored at a hangar at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. Those who request pieces must agree to transport them at their own cost and display them in such a way that they are accessible to the public and are not altered in any way.
“When I found out there was an opportunity to have a piece, I had to have one,” Cummins said, who noted it was a way to remind citizens to never forget what happened.
Shrewsbury received a 124 pound, three-foot tall piece of steel that the department will eventually display in the front foyer of its headquarters. Cummins said a dedication may take place in September, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, as part of the yearly 9/11 vigil held on Shrewsbury Common.
“I want it [the ceremony] to involve the community,” he said. “We want to memorialize all those who were killed, with dignity, and make sure their memory lives on.”