Ground zero steel brings tragedy home to Tri-Cities

KENNEWICK — Three-thousand red, white and blue balloons floated up and over the set of mangled beams from the twin towers of the World Trade Center after the steel column came to rest Sunday in Kennewick. Ten years ago, the steel piece fell more than 1,000 feet from an upper level of one of the towers. On Sunday, a crowd that numbered upwards of 5,000 by law enforcement estimates came to stand beneath the steel column and remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in the years since in the service for their country. “May we never, ever forget,” said Kennewick Mayor Steve Young at the Tri-Cities’ 9/11 memorial ceremony after the cover was lifted from the column near the Southridge Sports Complex. Just hours before, the artifact had made its slow journey by truck through Kennewick to be lifted in place by a Lampson crane and secured to stand for generations to come. “The last time I stood next to it, it was together,” said Barbara Polis-McLuckie of Benton City, as people crowded around the artifact to touch it and take pictures. On the back of her T-shirt she had written “R.I.P. Rob Parro.” She had attended Division Avenue High School in New York City with Parro. On the morning of 9/11, he was just getting off work when he called his wife to say he was going on overtime to take one last call, a fire just reported at the World Trade Center. “He never came home,” said Polis-McLuckie. The day also had a personal feel for Kennewick Fire Chief Neil Hines. He spent nearly three weeks in New York City supporting work at ground zero just after the terrorist attacks. “I’m so happy to have a piece of the steel here for generations to come,” he said. “I hope it never happens again.” The steel is sacred, he told the crowd, and will forever remind the people of the Tri-Cities about the terrible events of that day 10 years ago. “For me, it’s a symbol of people not being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil,” he said. He saw humanity at its best during his days at ground zero, he said. Family members of those who perished came up to thank him for his work, he said. Each day volunteers were given cards and letters that came pouring into the city. He brought one of the letters with him Sunday — a letter with a picture of a firefighter in yellow shooting a spray of blue water onto raging red flames. “I hope you are a good fireman and save the world,” the note below it said. “It is a sad day for the USA.” It was signed “Sincerely, Jaden Moody, age 6, Burbank, Wash.” The effort to bring the battered steel beams to the Tri-Cities also brought out the best in the community. The Lampson family brought the idea of asking for a piece of the World Trade Center to Kennewick city leadership, and Lampson International arranged and paid for trucking the beams across the nation. Other community members and organizations donated time and materials for the memorial in an effort coordinated by the city of Kennewick. “We are honored to provide this column a home,” said Councilman Paul Parish. The memorial ceremony included the national anthem and America the Beautiful sung by the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers. Boy Scout Troop 148 led the Pledge of Allegiance and Kennewick Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5785 raised the memorial’s U.S. flag. Before Tobin Hendricks played taps, the Kennewick mayor led the crowd in a moment of silence, both for the nearly 3,000 people like Polis-McLuckie’s former classmate who never came home on 9/11 and also for the troops who have since died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ceremony ended with the release of the balloons that those watching had held in the hot sun through the event. They drifted up over the 35-foot tall steel — a few catching on the flag on its top — before spreading across the blue Tri-Cities sky.

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