Sept. 11 artifact on display in Milwaukee

An artifact from Ground Zero was relocated to the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center for the 10th Anniversary of the attacks. Photo by Amanda Frank/amanda.frank@marquette.edu

While events commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened around the Milwaukee area this weekend, one of them brought a piece of history home for residents of the city.

Last Thursday, a piece of steel from the wreckage of the Sept. 11 attacks was brought from New York and placed in the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, where it will stay as a permanent part of the Memorial.

According to Jack Christianson, Milwaukee’s deputy fire chief, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has been giving pieces of the wreckage to sites across the country. Executives at the War Memorial applied to receive the artifact, and the application was approved earlier this year.

The piece of steel is approximately seven feet long, covered in rust and still has nails and concrete attached on one side. It was transported from New York to Wisconsin by volunteers who used their vehicle to make the trip.

The artifact was escorted to the War Memorial Thursday morning, Sept. 8, by a crowd of law enforcement officials and public servants, including police and firemen.

Christianson said it was memorable for the fire department to participate in the transportation of the wreckage. He added that the Milwaukee Fire Department became involved to honor those from New York Police Department who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The attacks were the start of a lot of changes in our country,” Christianson said.  “(We became involved) because we wanted to help honor the 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives on Sept. 11.”

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders, an organization that supports military events, and the American Legion were also in attendance.

According to Jim Unruh, senior ride captain for the Patriot Guard Riders, members of the organization were honored to ride their motorcycles alongside the piece of World Trade Center steel.

“For the Patriot Guard Riders, this was quite exciting to be part of such a historic event,” Unruh said.

He added that the glory was meant for members of public service, law enforcement and those who lost their lives in the attacks.

“It’s never about the Patriot Guard Riders but the fallen, their families and ensuring that their sacrifices will never be forgotten,” Unruh said.

The piece was seen by most for the first time as part of a memorial service that took place Sunday morning honoring those fallen in the attacks.

Visitors to the War Memorial on Sunday examined, touched and photographed the artifact, which is on display in the Memorial’s Fitch Plaza. Some observed a moment of silence as they stood in its presence.

Doug Anderson, a visitor to the Memorial, said the piece keeps the memory of the Sept. 11 attacks alive for the Milwaukee community.

“I came to see (the artifact) because I don’t want to forget the attacks,” Anderson said. “It really brings it home for the Milwaukee community and helps keep the connection with history.”