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Memorial to 9-11 victims visits Pa. fire company

June 11, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

While the shock and horror of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks remain in the forefront of most people's minds, a traveling memorial to the victims of 9-11 has brought a new reality to Chambersburg residents.

"When you see the destruction on TV it's one thing. When you see it in person, it's worse," said Kathy Medolla, of Chambersburg. "I still find it hard to believe."

Medolla, her husband Ralph, and their 11-year-old sons Hans and Noah, were among hundreds who went to the Franklin Fire Co. Monday to view the World Trade Center Traveling Memorial.

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"To me, it didn't matter where anyone was from. We were all from New York that day," Medolla said.

The traveling memorial, sponsored by the Port Authority Police of New York and New Jersey, also will be open to the public today - the nine-month anniversary of the attacks - from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The visit is sponsored by the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services and the Franklin Fire Co., 158 W. King St., Chambersburg.

The display includes everything from photos of the World Trade Center being built to video footage of it burning. Photos of crumpled New York Fire Department trucks and groups of people being led down the stairs of the trade center hit home for some.

For others, it was the personal items displayed that made them wonder about the last person who used a broken ax, pieces of computer keyboards or the door from a New York Police Department emergency services truck that was destroyed Sept. 11.

Lt. Chester Weekes and Lt. Gene Smith, both retired Port Authority Police officers, brought the memorial to Chambersburg.

The pair had worked last fall on recovery operations during the midnight shift at Ground Zero. They began collecting remnants of people's lives and the idea for the traveling memorial took shape.

"We started picking up items of interest. There was a time someone used that computer keyboard," Weekes said.

Weekes could talk about those items - including a piece of an airplane - but when it came to sharing stories of the fallen officers, his tone became more somber.

"It's hard to talk about the individual. It's easy to talk about the pieces," he said.

Viewing the actual wreckage from Ground Zero and uniforms worn by some emergency personnel brought a new perspective to area residents.

"To see the toolboxes and things used, things people owned," was moving for Heloise Smith, a third-grade teacher at Corpus Christi Elementary School in Chambersburg.

"It's very hard emotionally to see how many lives were lost," she said.

The memorial honors uniformed services personnel and the civilians who lost their lives Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on the four hijacked airplanes.

Among those honored are the 37 Port Authority Police officers who died when the twin towers collapsed, the largest single-day loss of any police department in history, according to Weekes.

The Port Authority, which had a station in the World Trade Center, was the first agency on the scene and helped save the lives of more than 25,000 civilians by evacuating them.

The traveling memorial left March 15 from Ground Zero with plans to end its tour back in New York City on the first anniversary. Weekes said he is booked through October and has three dates for 2003, so he's not sure how long the memorial will keep going.

The memorial will next head to Lancaster, Pa., for the 2002 Pennsylvania Police Olympics on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

More information on the traveling memorial can be found on the Web at www.wtcpapdmemorial.com.

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