As a Korean War veteran, James Herrmann thought he had seen it all, but what he found one cold day in 2002 under the Brooklyn Bridge was much worse.
After nearly a year of conversations with officials, Herrmann and two other men from the Durham (Pa.) Historical Society were directed to a warehouse under the bridge to obtain a piece of the World Trade Center.
“They said ‘You can get whatever you want, but you’re not going to be able to budge these things,’ ” Herrmann said.
The bent and charred pieces of support beam weren’t an option anymore. The men settled on a smaller remembrance piece that weighed around 400 pounds.
“It was mind-boggling to the extent that you were amidst what was the remains of a total cataclysmic event. It was terrible,” Herrmann said. “We all had that feeling when we left: What did we just see and what was that in the back of the truck?”
The people of the township especially felt connected to Sept. 11, 2001, after they learned the town of about 1,300 people lived in the path of the planes that crashed that morning.
After returning to Durham, the beam was placed on a permanent display next to an American flag.
Lynn Oliver, who served on the historical society’s board of directors in Durham with her husband, Herrmann, said those who received pieces of the towers had to agree not to use them for profit and had to prove the piece was being set up as a memorial.
After moving to Columbia County in 2006, Oliver and Herrmann began longing for a similar memorial in their new home.
“It’s a vivid reminder of what took place on our soil,” she said. “It’s part of our history. It’s like going to a battlefield, like going to an aerospace museum and seeing Apollo 13. That day those people were going to work, working for their families. It was the American way, but many of them didn’t make it home.”
While attending the Sept. 11 anniversary ceremony in 2009, Oliver approached Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle.
At the beginning of October, Whittle contacted Oliver and said he had requested a usable size to be picked up.
But so far nothing has happened.
Whittle did not return phone calls asking about the project.
“I think it was a matter of size and how to get it from here to there in a cost-efficient way,” Oliver said.
Nearly two years has passed, but Oliver said she still hopes that she’ll get the word that the steel is making its way to her new town.
“It’s a shame,” Herrmann said. “It’s interesting to touch something that was in that building – a part of its structure.”