By Ron Leir
As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon approaches, the Bloomfield Board of Education wants a way to memorialize the victims of the terrorist actions.
And the board’s chief administrator, Schools Superintendent Jason Bing, is making every effort to get that goal on track.
When Bing was still in his last job, as assistant superintendent for the Barnegat Township Board of Education, the South Jersey district was alerted that it had the opportunity to secure one of the WTC steel beams.
To get Barnegat part of that special infrastructure to display locally, Bing and others enlisted the help of Barnegat resident Charley Giles, an EMT who was among the first responders at the WTC on 9/11
“I was part of that process,” Bing said, “and as Charley got news I was leaving the district, he let me know that he could probably get Bloomfield a beam as well.”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the WTC property, has “extended an offer to police and fire departments, cities, towns, museums and other nonprofit organizations, to request pieces of this historic steel,” explained PA spokeswoman Sara Beth Joren.
“In the weeks following the WTC attack, the PA retained an architectural firm – Voorsanger Associates – to identify artifacts on the site and at the Fresh Kills Landfill (on Staten Island) that should be preserved for the future World Trade Center Memorial & Museum and for future public displays,” Joren continued.
Those items that the architects identified were stored at an unused 80,000-square-foot hangar at Kennedy International Airport – a space big enough to accommodate the beams, vehicles, concrete, turnstiles and other materials pulled from the debris, Joren said.
Among those items are remnants of the antenna from the WTC roof, the trident steel columns that stood at the base of the WTC foundation, along with crushed emergency vehicles and PATH train cars.
Already in storage at the designated museum site is the final column removed from the WTC after the cleanup.
So far, Joren said, the PA has received more than 1,500 requests from all 50 states and five countries – Canada, England, China, Germany and Italy – for those twisted sections of beams, ranging in size from under a foot to more than 10 feet.
To date, more than 1,100 of those requests have been approved, according to Joren.
One of those approvals came to the Bloomfield school district about a month ago.
“Delivery usually takes two months,” Bing said. “It usually comes by truck or we could pick it up.”
The district hasn’t yet decided how to facilitate the acquisition of the beam, he said.
In the meantime, the Bloomfield district is forming a 9/11 Memorial Committee comprising of school board trustees, teachers and community representatives to plan the logistics of how to memorialize the beam.
It has posted a notice on its web site soliciting volunteers to serve on the committee.
“We’ll probably have 15 to 20 members,” Bing said.
Although the final decision will be left up to the committee, Bing said the district “is leaning toward making the memorial part of the new Foley Memorial Field.”
At this stage, he said, the thinking has been “to set up a separate memorial outside the stadium where people can come down anytime and read the inscription on the memorial.”
It will be up to the committee to determine things like “what kind of a plaque to create, what it should say, when to have an opening ceremony, for example,” Bing said.
“We’re hoping to have it by Sept. 11,” he said. “The idea is to get the piece of steel and get it set up and have it ready by then.”
Barnegat’s Giles, unfortunately, “suffers from the ramifications of having worked at Ground Zero,” Bing said. A victim of black lung-like symptoms, Giles now relies on a wheelchair to get around, Bing said.
“Charley’s been active with World Trade Center survivor organizations and he’s been an advocate for trying to get legislation passed on behalf of the survivors,” Bing said.
Last December, Barnegat was among those public school districts chosen to host the “Patriot Flag Project,” honoring those who perished in the 9/11 attacks and their families.
The “Patriot Flag,” 38 feet-by-60 feet and weighing 62 pounds, is said to be the second largest American flag in the country, according to Bing. That flag “toured” all 50 states last year for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.