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Twin Towers steel makes a home in Auburn

Commemorating public safety officers purpose of sending pieces around country, fire chief says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A piece of the event that shook the nation nearly 10 years ago is now calling Auburn its home. The city recently received a 12-inch by 15-inch, 20-pound piece of one of the Twin Towers, which was released by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Councilman Mike Holmes said he first found out pieces of the World Trade Center were available when he was mayor in 2006. He and Auburn Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi applied for a small piece. Once it arrived in the city he took it to the Auburn Arts Commission, which decided to mount the piece of steel on a pedestal. “We decided that rather than trying to clean it up, we would just leave it in its natural state to recognize, memorialize the Twin Towers,” Holmes said. D’Ambrogi said the Port Authority released the pieces in order to help commemorate those public safety officials who lost their lives on 9/11, and it was important for Auburn to be a part of this effort. “We wanted to do it as the city of Auburn, and it’s to represent public safety, so both law and fire, because we do both,” D’Ambrogi said. “It’s just another way of the city of Auburn taking part in that very significant event. It’s more of an honor and remembrance of those who have lost their lives performing their jobs at home and those who are performing their duties now.” The city did not have to pay for the piece but paid about $30 in shipping to get it delivered, D’Ambrogi said. Holmes said he agrees with the importance of having a portion of the destroyed building in Auburn. “This was a significant attack on the United States, and while we have been basically fighting this so-called War on Terrorism since, it’s not something people will easily forget,” he said. “I won’t put it at the same level as Pearl Harbor, but it has that ring to it as far as the people in this country. The fact that we here in the city of Auburn can have just a little piece of that to remember the people who perished, and particularly the first responders … who perished in that particular incident (is important).” Auburn artist J. Randall Smith is planning to design the pedestal and then another craftsman would create it. A specific craftsman hasn’t been chosen yet, Smith said. Smith said he is not charging the city for the design and is happy to be a part of the project. “It’s a humbling experience to be able to hold it, and feel the weight and know there was tons and tons of it falling down like toothpicks,” Smith said. “I kind of think back on where this steel was … and who originally had placed their hands on this in the construction of the building itself. I think it brings the event to life, to the realization it actually happened, and here is a fraction, just a small representation, of lives lost and the tragedy during that time.” Smith said the craftsman who creates the pedestal will most likely ask for a commission from the city. Smith said the design will probably be done by mid-fall, and both Holmes and D’Ambrogi said they would like to have the pedestal completed by Sept. 11. Holmes said once the design is ready, he plans to take it to the Arts Commission for its blessing and then get final approval from City Council. Holmes said it’s not yet known where the piece would be on display, but there is one main idea so far. “We haven’t decided on a particular venue where it will be, although one of the obvious places would be in the case just outside the City Council chambers (at City Hall),” he said. D’Ambrogi said he is also hoping to have a plaque mounted to the pedestal to commemorate public safety officers. D’Ambrogi said having the piece on display has personal meaning for him and probably for most local residents. “For me personally, it has a significance because I had one son that spent three tours in Iraq in the Marines, and I have one son that is actually deployed now,” he said. “This is his second tour. The whole thing kind of started with 9/11. So, it reaches everybody, and I think citizens can kind of attach themselves to that, too a little bit.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com