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Steel from fallen tower brought to Clayton

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County fire and emergency services personnel, along with Clayton Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, and Vice Chairman Wole Ralph, are on hand for the delivery of a steel remnant from one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York that were destroyed by a terrorist attack in 2001.

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats Clayton County fire and emergency services personnel, along with Clayton Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, and Vice Chairman Wole Ralph, are on hand for the delivery of a steel remnant from one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York that were destroyed by a terrorist attack in 2001.

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

Clayton County fire recruit Stefano Gooden was a high school junior when the World Trade Center towers fell in 2001, killing 343 firefighters -- and 3,000 others -- in the worse terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

On Monday, Gooden watched with other recruits and fire and emergency services personnel as a 54-inch piece of steel from one of the towers was delivered for a local display to fallen firefighters.

It was a somber moment.

"This is just a reminder of what we're doing every day," said Gooden, 25, of College Park. "We have the same responsibilities, and do the same work as the firefighters who died that day. It really puts in our minds the significance of what we're doing."

The steel traveled to Riverdale from New York City Monday, on a FedEx Freight truck. Clayton Fire and Emergency Services Assistant Chief Landry Merkison expected it to weigh about 200 pounds.

Instead, the L-shaped piece weighed nearly half a ton -- 996 pounds.

A forklift operator from Atlanta Gas Light, next door to fire headquarters, unloaded the steel for firefighters.

Fire Chief Jeff Hood said Clayton is one of the few places in the nation, and the first in Georgia, to get a piece of the steel. The 18-month application and approval process was taken seriously, he said.

"We were going to drive up in a truck and just pick up the piece ourselves, but it had to be insured and officially delivered by FedEx," he said. "This is an honor and a privilege for the county, and a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice for our people to not be complacent, don't let your guard down. Always be vigilant."

The county is building a $4 million regional training facility behind the fire and emergency services headquarters on Ga. 85. Hood said the steel will be a permanent part of a memorial to fallen firefighters inside that building.

Gooden and his fellow recruits will graduate June 10, and be among the contingents of firefighters to train inside the new building. The former employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security visited the World Trade Center site in April 2002.

"It was amazing and sad," said Gooden. "You could see remnants, but it was basically a hole in the ground."