When David Morin arrived at the 9/11 memorial in Hudson one recent morning, he saw two women touching the rusted, scarred 23-foot tall steel beam that was salvaged from the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Their heads were bowed.
“That happens all the time,” said Morin, a retired fire captain who helped build the memorial.
The town dedicated the memorial 10 years ago at Benson Park. Along the path that leads to the steel remnants, a granite marker reads, “Never Forget.”
“When you come here it brings it right back to you,” Hudson Fire Chief Robert Buxton said. “You don’t have to stress your brain remembering where you were that day after you leave here. It immediately comes back.”
Thousands of twisted, mangled steel pieces from the World Trade Center are included in memorials across the country. At least nine are in the Granite State. The “hallowed artifacts,” as some call them, have become a way for many to reflect on and honor the nearly 3,000 lost on that day. For others, the steel has become a lesson in history.
At Benson Park, the sounds of children at a nearby playground often drift to the memorial. On any given day, parents venture over when their children are old enough to talk about the gravity of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the plane that went down in Shanksville, Pa.
On the same day about three miles down the road at the Nashua Fire headquarters, Cy Hebert, a firefighter and commander of the honor guard, looked at a piece of 9/11 steel from the World Trade Center. He took a deep breath.
“What first comes to mind is the firemen lost and the connection with the fire services and the brotherhood,” he said of the 343 firefighters who died.
For many, the pieces of steel have become more than just relics.
In 2019, the Londonderry Fire Department received a 3-foot piece of 9/11 from the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Siller, a New York City firefighter on his day off, ran from the closed Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center.
He rescued a number of people along the way before he lost his life when the World Trade Center collapsed. His remains were never found.
“I believe this sacred steel carries within it the souls of all of those who lost their lives that day, including my brother,” said Frank Siller, chairman and CEO of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
The 160-pound piece of steel arrived in Londonderry on what would have been Stephen Siller’s 53rd birthday.
In Hudson, the nine-ton piece of steel also carries special meaning. David Kovalcin, 42, a senior mechanical engineer with Raytheon, was aboard American Airlines Flight 11 when it crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. He left behind his wife, Elizabeth, and two daughters who were 4 and 1 when their father died.
Morin said his family requested his name not be included in the memorial.
“They can come here and at least remember,” he said. “It is in honor of their dad and husband.”
Hudson photographer Christina Green heard about the beam arriving in town and took off the rest of the day to experience the moment. She grabbed her camera.
“Once I saw it, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it,” she said. “I started watching reactions to it and people touching it and it was so moving.”
She documented the project from start to finish and compiled a photo book. Before being installed, the beam traveled from town to town and was featured in several parades. She remembers all the stories she heard of personal experiences from 9/11.
“I haven’t touched it yet, I can’t bring myself to do it,” she said. “I witnessed thousands of people touching it the day we dedicated it and the tears and emotion that came from just touching that steel.”
The memorial offers a place of peace and hope for the future, she said.
From 2010 to 2016, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey worked to distribute more than 2,600 pieces of steel to museums, town government, schools, nonprofits and fire and police departments. The items had been stored in a hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport since 2002.
The steel has been distributed across all 50 states and 10 foreign nations.
Josh Noveletsky, president of Novel Iron Works in Greenland, and employee Raymond Elliott volunteered to pick up an 8-foot steel beam from New York that would land outside the Portsmouth Police headquarters and City Hall in 2015.
A Portsmouth man, Tom McGuinness, 42, was the co-pilot on American Airlines Flight 11 when the plane struck the first tower. He left behind his wife, Cheryl, and a son and daughter who were 14 and 16 at the time.
The truck took part in a caravan that included police escorts in each state. A banner and American flag were affixed to the 1,100-pound beam.
Noveletsky remembers seeing the mangled beam for the first time. He works with structurally fabricated steel for a living.
“I know what it takes to manipulate steel to a point,” he said. “It was bent in ways you could never even imagine.”
Elliott, who is from Long Island, was touched by his experience driving the truck carrying the beam and seeing the reactions of people as the steel made its way to New Hampshire.
“To this day when I get a chance, I will drive by and take a look at it,” he said. “I look at it in awe. It is just a reminder of the terrible things that happened.”
Buxton, Hudson’s deputy fire chief at the time, saw a pamphlet at the National Fire Academy in Maryland about the distribution of steel. After the town applied to receive a piece, a committee formed and the idea for the memorial got scribbled on a napkin.
The town originally was supposed to receive a 3- to 5-foot piece of steel, but requested a larger piece. Notice to pick up the 23-foot beam was received on the day Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed.
Morin was part of the team that picked up the steel. The group was given a tour of the hangar.
“We stood there in total awe,” Morin told the Union Leader in 2011. “The mood of everyone changed at that point, and it became much more emotional and real. It was truly amazing.”
Alongside the 23-foot beam in Hudson, the town built a second glass tower to represent the Twin Towers.
Every detail has some sort of significance, from the roses to the pear tree. Part of the memorial is shaped like a pentagon.
The cement walkway is in the shape of the flight path of United Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pa.
Granite markers show the timeline of the day.
“The timeline is really important for telling the story of 9/11 so everybody continues to learn about it,” Buxton said.
Another stone at the memorial will be placed in the future to commemorate those who lost their lives from 9/11-related illness.
“I think it really truly will take on an educational role as it moves forward from generation to generation,” Buxton said.
The Nashua memorial is placed on concrete in the shape of a pentagon. The surrounding grass represents the field in Pennsylvania where Flight 93 went down.
Hebert stops by the memorial when he can.
“It does represent so much more what the world is today, because it has changed everything as we know it,” he said.