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Sept. 11 artifact well-received in Hagerstown park

Memorial 'is a reminder of how fragile life is, and how much we need to appreciate it'

September 09, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Emergency Planner Sam Anderson, left, and Professional Services Administrator Tom Brown talk about the 9/11 ceremony that will be held in Hagerstown's City Park on Tuesday. They are standing beside a metal beam from the World Trade Center in New York City.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Some visitors to Hagerstown’s City Park are startled when they come across a metal beam from the World Trade Center in New York City in one corner of the park.

Kurt Sorsdal, a Frederick, Md., resident, was on his way to Hager House on a recent Wednesday after visiting the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts when he saw the beam.

He stopped. He peered at the inscription at the base. He fished out his camera and took a few photographs.

“I didn’t pay any attention to it until I saw Sept. 11 on the plaque, and that it was part of the World Trade Center building,” he said. “I was really surprised it was here.”

He said he felt like touching the beam but restrained himself.

“It is such a sad feeling ... the innocent lives that were lost,” Sorsdal said. “There are people I know in New York who haven’t gotten so close to any piece from the World Trade Center.”

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Sorsdal said his father, Henry Sorsdal who lives in Gaithersburg, Md., was a former Navy Seal and served in Vietnam.

“My father was in Vietnam, but Vietnam was in Vietnam, he was over there,” Sorsdal said. “This was right here. Wars used to be somewhere else.”

The beam was unveiled in the Emergency Services Tribute Garden in September 2011.

In May 2011, Tom Brown, a professional services administrator with the Washington County Emergency Communications Center, and Sam Anderson, an emergency services planner for the county, drove the beam to Hagerstown from New York City, where it had been housed in a hangar at the John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Emergency personnel at the time said members of the Washington County Citizen Corps Committee worked for about two years to acquire an artifact from ground zero.

When the terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, claiming nearly 3,000 lives in New York, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pa., Brown’s son, Quentin, was 2 months old.

“So when I brought it (beam) back, he was a little older, and I explained it to him,” Brown said. “One of the neat things I notice, whenever I come here, is that people leave things around the monument. There’s American flags sometimes. It’s just different things. Flowers sometimes.”

The beam has been well received by area residents, he said.

“They are glad they have something here to sit down and collect their thoughts ... to think about it,” Brown said.

Anderson said he experiences a variety of emotions when he visits the memorial.

“A lot of heartache and anger. All those emotions run through you again,” he said.

“I think the community at large likes to have a little bit of a reminder here in your own backyard for them to come, whether they knew loved ones or had friends involved in the day, or had friends involved in the military,” Anderson said.

Kevin Lewis, director of Washington County Emergency Services, said he feels privileged when he hears from visitors who have stopped by the memorial.

“For me, you know, it’s always I guess, a privilege when you talk to people, and when you hear people who are able to come out to this location and see what’s here,” Lewis said.

Kayla Stablein of Hagerstown said she read about the 9/11 artifact in the newspaper. In April, she and her husband, Christopher Stablein, took 1-year-old Trevor Stablein, to the memorial in the park.

“My son still doesn’t understand what all this was about. But he was curious. This was something we wanted him to know about,” Stablein said in a telephone interview. “We want our son to learn about our history. That’s why we took him there. That’s why we take him to the (Washington) D.C. museums.”

Stablein said a lot of visitors to the park do not know about the memorial.

“They are surprised that it is there. I think more people should take their kids to see it,” she said.

One person who is used to seeing the memorial often is Rebecca Massie Lane, director of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, which is near the memorial.

She recalled how when she was a student at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, residents of Lynchburg, Va., took great pride in the Twin Towers, because the steel for the structures was manufactured in the area.

Lane visited the towers with her family in 1997, and then again in late 2001.

“It was still smoldering,” she said.

The Hagerstown memorial “is a reminder of how fragile life is, and how much we need to appreciate it,” she said.

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