November 18, 2015
CRESSKILL — The borough will receive one of the last remnants of metal salvaged from the World Trade Center for the construction of a 9/11 monument.
“We’re gratified that after waiting for almost ten years we’re finally getting it,” said Mayor Benedict Romeo. “We’re looking forward to putting together a monument to our two fallen heroes as well as the other people who lost their lives on 9/11.”
Borough police will go with a flatbed truck Wednesday to pick up the remnant from the airplane hangar at JFK International Airport that houses steel from the destroyed Twin Towers.
Police and fire personnel are expected to accompany the relic through town, and it will be displayed at Veterans Square around noon, or later, depending on how long it takes the flatbed truck to get through traffic and arrive.
Officials were told to expect a 14-foot-long, 7,400-pound steel beam that was from the parking complex under the trade center, which was also the site of a 1993 bombing detonated inside a rental van.
The beam will be incorporated into a monument that will be erected at Cook Park on Madison Avenue to honor the 9/11 victims, including Cresskill residents and Port Authority Police officers Sgt. John Coughlin, 43, who died while attempting to rescue victims in the south tower, and John Cortazzo, 48, a first responder who died as a result of an illness sustained during recovery efforts.
Students from the middle school and high schools are being enlisted to help design the memorial, along with architects and an engineer. Local officials said they hope the memorial will be completed in time for the town’s 9/11 ceremony in 2016.
Some 14 years after terrorists flew hijacked planes into the twin towers, destroying the buildings and killing nearly 3,000 people, the fire-damaged remnants remain in demand. The JFK hangar, which was once packed with the charred pieces of metal, is now almost empty. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the metal, has dispatched remnants to about 2000 entities worldwide, including cities in all 50 states and several foreign countries, said PA spokesman Steve Coleman.
“We are processing the last few requests,” he said, adding that there are only about 32 pieces left. The Port Authority does not charge for the steel, but communities must fund the cost of hauling the chunks of metal, which vary in size and weight.
Cresskill is among the last communities in New Jersey to receive one of the coveted pieces. Glen Rock, Tenafly, Closter, Bergenfield, Dumont and Garfield are among many North Jersey communities that have acquired steel from the World Trade center, which they use as memorials.
Mike Dressler, surrogate judge in Bergen County and Cresskill’s former mayor credited as the impetus behind the venture, said he was moved to action by the county families he encountered after 9/11. In his capacity as a surrogate judge, he reviews and probates wills in Bergen County and appoints executors and guardians of minors. As a result, he saw the impact of 9/11 in many tragic ways — “Every day we thought we heard the worst story, but the next day we realized that we hadn’t,” he said.
He’s known both of Cresskill’s 9/11 victims and their families for years and wanted to make sure Cresskill honored their memories in the best way.
“In doing this, we set out to build a monument to honor of all the victims of 9/11 but in particular, in memory of our two native sons,” he said.
“These kids are true heroes to us. They gave everything they had.”