The New Paltz Fire Department, Police Department and a former legislator are adding a part of history to the Sept. 11 memorial tree rooted by the firehouse in the form of a piece of steel straight from the World Trade Center.
Jae Verner, a member of the New Paltz Fire Department since 2007 and chairman of the 9/11 Memorial Committee, said there currently isn’t an official date to unveil the memorial with its new additions, but it will be finished by Sept. 11, 2014.
“Once we have the design finalized, we will better know our financial and material needs,” Verner said. “We are hoping to have most if not all of the labor and materials donated, which would greatly reduce our fundraising needs.”
The addition of the piece of steel, which arrived a few weeks ago, is a part of a project that has been ongoing since Former Ulster County Republican Legislator Butch Dener planted the memorial tree on the Fire Department’s grounds in 2002.
The area around the tree will also be complemented by a stanchion that stood in the plaza in front of the North tower of the World Trade Center.
“The Sept. 11 tree was a natural location to expand to create a bigger memorial,” Verner said.
Verner said the ultimate goal of the departments and Dener is to create a space, complete with a pathway and benches, where community members and others can sit and reflect on the tragic event that took almost 3,000 lives, according to a Huffington Post article.
“The steel and the stanchion are testament to the destruction that took place — they will be an important feature of the memorial,” Verner said. “The tree that Butch planted in 2002 continues to grow. I think with the artifacts of destruction, it is important to have the tree, which is so full of life.”
Verner said though the process was time consuming, it was smooth and straightforward. They worked directly with a representative of Port Authority, who was “very helpful and great to work with.”
Verner said the New Paltz Fire Department has a close relationship to the New Paltz Police Department due to the nature of their work, and that “everyone there is eager to get the memorial put together.”
“[The police department] has been, as always great to work with,” Verner said. “Butch Dener is a fantastic supporter of the Fire Department. Whenever we have needed help from the community, he has been the first to volunteer, always going above and beyond.”
Verner said the significance of the memorial is tied the event itself — one that “no one will ever forget.”
“Having a physical memorial gives us somewhere to go where we can go to reflect on the events of that day,” he said. “The piece of steel and the stanchion give shape to the destruction of that day. The 9/11 tree Butch planted started as just a sapling — as it grows, so do we heal.”