The steel resolve of the West Hempstead community and its leaders to acquire a piece of the fallen World Trade Center for its 9/11 memorial has paid off.
When that the West Hempstead Community Support Association, working with NYS Assemblyman Edward Ra and Sen. Dean Skelos, was trying to secure a steel beam from the Twin Towers, things were not looking so good.
A spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which was in charge of handling requests for the 13,000 linear feet of steel retrieved from Ground Zero, said the agency was nearing the end of its supply and West Hempstead's request was put on hold. At that point, the agency had already granted 1,300 requests from groups throughout the United States and seven foreign countries and many more were pending, according to Steve Coleman, of the Port Authority. He had said, "Any request we're getting now, we are holding onto because we are not sure if we will have enough steel to accomodate them."
But in mid-January, Rosalie Norton, president of the Community Support Association, learned that West Hempstead would be getting a piece of 9/11 steel, a testament to the efforts of the residents, local organizations and state leaders.
The Port Authority received so many letters from members of the West Hempstead community requesting the steel that Norton was told, "Our file stands out by thickness."
Although the West Hempstead Community Support Association made the intital request, many other local groups and residents rallied around the cause, she says. She also praised the efforts of Assemblyman Ra and Sen. Skelos, adding, "I doubt very much that we would have been able to get it with out them. I sincerely believe they had a lot to do with enabling us to get it and be approved so quickly."
Since it took the whole community to acquire the steel, Norton is making sure all of West Hempstead will be a part of finally bringing it to West Hempstead. She's been working with the West Hempstead and Lakeview Volunteer Fire Departments, and the Nassau County Auxiliary Police Unit 116 to coordinate the pick-up of the steel on March 28 from a hangar at JFK Airport, where the World Trade Center debris has been stored.
On that day, the police and firefighters escorting the beam will circle around the neighborhood once, so residents can witness its arrival in the community. (The specific details of the route will be shared later this month when the Community Support Association's newsletter is published.) Norton said she's also been in contact with West Hempstead Schools Superintendent John Hogan to make sure the students are a part of this event.
After completing its tour of the community, the section of steel, which measures 50 inches high and 17 inches by 17 inches, will be placed in the vacant library portion of the , where it will be stored until it can be moved to its permanent resting spot - ideally near the 9/11 Memorial located at .
Since this park is owned by Nassau County, Norton says West Hempstead would need to get approval from the County to place the steel there. Norton has already written a letter to Legis. Vincent Muscarella asking him to seek permission from the County.
"It's very important that this is done at no cost to the County," she says.
In recent weeks, she's been in contact with a company that manufactures memorials using granite and with a graphic designer, and hopes that some of the materials and work will be donated. The final design will be the result of collaborative efforts between the fire department, civic and other organizations, and will be shared with the County.
Her hope is that the request to the County and the design and construction of the memorial will be complete in the next few months, so the steel could be placed at the site by June. If not then, it would most likely happen in the fall, she added.
West Hempstead lost 12 residents in the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The steel will serve as "a reminder of so many different emotions and a tangible piece of that building, that day," Ra told Patch.
He later added, “West Hempstead lost a significant number of people that day. Many were involved citizens of the community. Those who were lost left behind family, friends and neighbors who deserve an appropriate location where they can go and reflect, not just once a year on the anniversary."
West Hempstead resident Susan Ainbender Carroll is one of those people. Her 25-year-old son, , died that day when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. She told Patch that she thinks the steel beam will be a nice addition to the community.
"I know [Kevin] would have liked it too," she added.