The expansive monument, which contains a piece of steel from the World Trade Center, contains a water feature, a reflecting bench, and was constructed with donations from EP Henry and local residents.
By Matt Skoufalos
It turns out the Audubon fire station is exactly 91.1 miles from the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City, and to firefighter John Carpenter, that’s not coincidence; it’s confirmation.
Carpenter is a past chief of the department and its most dedicated historian. When he happens upon details that connect the volunteer fire company to its storied past, or to others in the nation, he know he’s working out the pieces of a larger narrative.
So when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey began awarding pieces of WTC steel to organizations that would preserve its memory, Carpenter filed an application on behalf of Audubon FD. He heard “no reply, nothing,” for three full years. Then, last summer, Carpenter got the call: 7,000 pounds of concrete and steel from the North Tower of the WTC parking garage were headed his way.
The relic “has got a lot more character than most,” Carpenter said. Salvaged from Tower 1 after the events of September 11, it was part of an anchor point that had been damaged in the February 26, 1993 WTC bombing, and repairs made to the structure after that attack are still noticeable.
Finding the best way to memorialize the WTC steel was a group effort, with the whole department kicking in ideas, Carpenter said.
Local firm Anchor Point Architecture drew up plans that included an LED-backlit water feature, with granite-etched silhouettes of the WTC towers in the background and a bench for resting and reflecting.
The base is pentagonal, to honor the 9/11 attack at the federal building. Tens of thousands of dollars in stonework was donated through the EP Henry Heroscaping program, and a bequest from late Audubon resident Joan DeClement also helped fund the project.
“To a man every person treats it with respect,” Carpenter said. The reverence the firefighters who worked on the monument have for it is so great that when some of the cement that anchored the steel had to be shaved back, it was mixed back into the base of the pedestal.
Carpenter visited the national 9/11 memorial in June for the first time. The site has become hallowed ground, but for firefighters, it has a distinct emotional resonance. Still, when the past chief saw footage of New York City firefighters running into the building, he couldn’t stop looking at their faces and thinking, “not a single one of them knew they weren’t going to come out.
“Every chief will tell you the most important thing is that everybody makes it home that night,” Carpenter said. “They’ve all trusted their team with their life. To trust your brother to do what he’s going to do, you can see it in their eyes.”
Like other 9/11 memorials, the Audubon site will hold a special meaning for first responders and servicepersons, but it is meant to be enjoyed by everyone.
The fire station itself is a community gathering place, and its annual Fourth of July open house at which the memorial will be dedicated “is literally Audubon’s family reunion,” Carpenter said.
“Audubon is the national hometown,” he said. “We have something special we want to present to the town that we can have forever.”
The memorial will be dedicated at 11:30 a.m. on the Fourth of July, followed by an open house with refreshments from 12 to 2 p.m.
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